Jason Day needed only 14 minutes early on Monday morning to come out and win the delayed, 6th extra hole of a playoff for the Farmers Insurance Open title at California's famed Torrey Pines South.
Earlier, on Sunday, the 30-year-old Australian who reigned as the world No 1 not much more than 18 months ago, but who had not won anywhere in the World since his 10th US PGA Tour victory at The Players Championship in May, 2016, had posted a 4th-round 70 in the regulation 72 holes to catch and match Swede Alex Noren, who shot a 73, and American Ryan Palmer, who shot a 72. All posted 10-under closing totals of 278.
Palmer dropped out at the 1st extra hole of the playoff, but the never-give-an-inch duel between Day and Noren was still raging after the fifth extra hole when bad light ended play and forced the event to go into a Monday finish.
In attempting to claim his first US title, Noren opted to take a chance on Monday morning when the 6th extra hole was played on the par-5, 18th hole at Torry Pines.
The green is guarded by water and he would have to clear it if he went for it with his second shot from 256 yards.
His shot, with a three wood, was a good one, but not quite good enough. It cleared the water, but found the upslope in front of the green and ran back into the water.
“I thought it was going to reach,” the luckless Noren said of his approach. “I mean, it’s tough in that first cut because it gets a little more spin than off the fairway. Tough luck.”
Day, meanwhile, had been forced to lay-up after hitting his tee shot into the right rough, but he quickly turned everything around when he hit a lob wedge from 85 yards out that landed 10 yards past the flag and spun back to give him an 18 inch tap-in putt for birdie and his 11th PGA Tour victory.
It was his 4th birdie in a playoff series that was the longest in the Tournament's 50-year history by two extra holes. It was also Day's second playoff victory in this event following his 2015 triumph.
Only some 200 fans, most of them in the skyboxes at 18, were out to see the delayed finish after tournament organizers, citing difficulties in finding volunteer and security staff, decided not to allow the public to attend.
But it mattered not to the joyful Day who told reporters, “It’s special for me to be able to win here again. I first came over here as a junior and won the Junior World Championship. Then, being able to win in 2015 propelled me to a really great year.
“Obviously, the preparation and the hard work over the holidays has really paid off early, so I need to make sure I stay on top of that.”
Prior to coming to San Diego, Day had faced a series of problems that hardly pointed to a second victory at Torrey Pines.
Some of these had to do with a painful back. Another was the fact that his regular caddie had been unable to obtain a visa in time and Day had been forced to co-opt a childhood friend, Rika Batibasaga, to carry his bag.
And there was more. Day was coming off a long layoff from competition, and furthermore, was coming out of a miserable 2017 in which he managed only had five top-10 finishes and as a result saw his world ranking plummet to 14th.
“Last year was a good kick in the butt," Day said, "not really being talked about … and being talked about for the wrong reasons. Take my mum (who was treated for Cancer) out of the equation. I see the guys winning — Jordan (Spieth) and Dustin (Johnson) are playing some tremendous golf. Jon Rahm’s playing some tremendous golf, and I feel like I should be there as well, winning.
“Last year I felt mentally stressed, but also run down, burnt out. It was hard for me to be on the golf course. But this year my whole mindset’s different. I’m very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot and I know that the only way to get back is to win. That’s what I’ve just got to do.”
SUNDAY'S LEADING FINAL SCORES
(Par 72 - the USA unless stated)
278 Jason Day (AUS) 73 64 71 70 , Alex Noren (SWE) 70 66 69 73, Ryan Palmer 66 67 73 72 (*see report above about the playoff)
280 Holmes 70 72 65 72, Keegan Bradley 70 69 71 70
281 Charles Howell III 69 72 71 69, Tony Finau 65 70 73 73
282 Robert Garrigus 69 70 73 70, Harris English 70 68 73 71, Marc Leishman (AUS) 71 69 69 73, Justin Rose (ENG) 69 70 69 74
283 Tom Hoge 72 69 72 70, Hideki Matsuyama (JAP) 72 69 73 69, Retief Goosen (RSA) 70 68 72 73, Brandon Harkins 70 70 70 73, Lanto Griffin 72 68 69 74, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 70 72 67 74, Luke List 69 66 73 75, Gary Woodland 74 68 66 75
284 Cameron Smith (AUS) 71 68 73 72, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 68 73 71 72, Abraham Ancer (MEX) 72 69 73 70
285 Patrick Reed 68 72 72 73, JJ Henry 70 72 70 73, Tiger Woods 72 71 70 72, Chesson Hadley 71 72 71 71, JJ Spaun 70 71 69 75, Michael Kim 69 68 70 78.
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