Day goes wire-to-wire to win Players Championship
No. 1 golfer in world lead PGA's richest tournament all four days
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The best field in golf was no match for Jason Day at The Players Championship.
Day caused only a little drama Sunday in what otherwise felt more like another coronation for the 28-year-old Australian. He led by at least two shots the entire round, played bogey-free again on the back nine at the TPC Sawgrass and closed with a 1-under 71 to win golf's richest tournament.
"I just wanted to win this so bad," Day said.
Along the way, he put a stamp on his No. 1 ranking.
Day won for the seventh time in the last 10 months, titles that include a major, a World Golf Championship and a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events. He became the first wire-to-wire winner in 16 years at Sawgrass.
Day won $1.89 million from the $10.5 million purse.
He won by four shots over Kevin Chappell, who closed with a 69 to pick up a $1,134,000 consolation check.
The greens at the Stadium Course were not nearly as severe as Saturday, when only six players managed to break par and Day made a pair of double bogeys to slow what had been shaping up as a runaway. This time, Day inflicted his own damage by missing greens and flubbing three chips on his way to a bogey on the par-5 ninth that cut his lead to two shots going to a back nine filled with possibilities.
With two quick birdies, the outcome soon was inevitable.
Day poured in a 15-foot birdie on No. 10 and another one from that range on No. 12. His last challenge was to make sure he found land on the island-green 17th, and his wedge made it with about 10 feet to spare.
"Playing the way I did on the back side, just bearing down, I'm going to hold this memory for a long time," Day said.
He finished at 15-under 273, and he left his peers wondering what it would take to beat him when Day is on his game.
"It's no coincidence he's No. 1 in the world," Justin Thomas said after closing with a Sunday-best 65 to tie for third. "He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can't. His short game is ridiculous. I think I've pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf."
Day is the third No. 1 player to win The Players Championship, joining Greg Norman (1994) and Tiger Woods (2001 and 2013).
Perhaps even more telling about the state of his game is that he joined Woods, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller as the only players since 1970 to go wire-to-wire twice in the same season. Day led from start to finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Day also won the Dell Match Play, winning six of his seven matches before they reached the 18th green.
Chappell made bogey on the final hole at Bay Hill to lose to Day. This time, he tried to catch up with a 32 on the back nine. Day simply wouldn't let anyone catch him.
The consolation for Chappell is his third runner-up finish this year moves him well inside the top 50 in the world, assuring him exemptions into the U.S. Open and British Open this summer.
Thomas, who started 11 shots behind, stuck around Sawgrass to see if 10-under 278 would have a chance. He wound up tied for third with Matt Kuchar (68), Colt Knost (69) and Ken Duke (72).
Hideki Matsuyama, playing in the final group with Day, was 3 over after three holes and quickly out of the mix. The pressure didn't come from anyone else, rather from Day. The Aussie hit only three greens on the front nine, dropping a shot on No. 6 and having to make a 15-foot par putt on No. 7.
After chopping up the rough to the right of the ninth green, he had to make a 6-foot putt for bogey.
But he was flawless on the back nine, going bogey-free the entire week.
He now has a large lead in the world ranking over Jordan Spieth, who missed the cut, and Rory McIlroy at No. 3, who was never a factor on Sunday at Sawgrass. Dating to his 81 last year at The Players to miss the cut, Day has finished out of the top 10 only seven times in his last 20 starts.
Adam Scott referred to it as "Tiger-esque."
"That's one of the hardest things to do when you are hot like that, to keep pushing," Scott said. "But he has a very strong desire to achieve so much, and I think probably his goals are changing throughout this period, and he's expecting more and more of himself. He's got that ability to push himself and accomplish."
Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.