Jason Day breaks through, Jordan Spieth takes over No. 1 on a historic Sunday at the PGA Championship
Take a good look, folks. This won't be the last time you see Jason Day holding a major championship trophy. On a captivating Sunday at the 97th PGA Championship, the 27-year-old Australian shot a superb 67 to capture his first major title in historic fashion, winning by three strokes over playing partner Jordan Spieth, who had a historic day in his own right. Day's 20-under total of 268 eclipsed the previous record for lowest score in major championship history, previously held by Tiger Woods' 19-under total at The Open Championship during his famed 2000 season. It's interesting to note that Woods has long been an inspiration for Day, specifically a biography on Tiger that inspired Day to pursue golf as a career.
And what a career it's already been. For the past five seasons, Day has come so close in major championships but hadn't quite been able to close one out.
At the 2011 Masters, his first appearance there, he birdied the final two holes to put himself in a great position to win. But Charl Schwartzel doubled that, making an unprecedented four birdies in a row to close out the tournament to win the green jacket. Day did set a record that weekend by shooting 12-under, the best score ever by a first time participant. He ultimately tied for second.
At the 2011 US Open at Congressional, also known as Rory McIlroy's coming out party, Day once again finished second at -8, a whopping eight strokes behind the record-setting 16-under performance from McIlroy. On a side note, however, Day's 8-under would have won 107 out of the 115 US Opens that have ever been played. He would have been in a playoff in five others. The only three scores to ever be better than 8-under was that year from Rory, Tiger's 2000 season where he shot 12-under, and last year's 9-under finish from Martin Kaymer.
At the 2013 Masters, Day led on the back nine on Sunday before a few hiccups, finishing two strokes out of the playoff between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera, ultimately won by his fellow Australian. Day finished tied for third.
At the 2013 US Open at Merion, Day tied for second, two strokes behind winner Justin Rose.
At last year's US Open from Pinehurst, Day finished in a tie for fourth behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer.
Only two months ago at this year's US Open at Chambers Bay, Day would endure some of the toughest golf of his young career. During the second round on Friday, in a very scary scene, Day collapsed on the 9th hole, his 18th of the day after starting on the back nine. It was later announced that he was suffering from a bout with vertigo, which would leave him very dizzy and wobbly. It was not known whether or not Day would continue to play the weekend, but he persevered, even holding the lead on Sunday before running out of gas to finish in a tie for ninth.
A month later, seemingly fully recovered, Day would hold a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open Championship from St. Andrews. He shot a very solid 70 on Sunday, but failed to convert a birdie attempt on the final hole, finishing one stroke out of the playoff, eventually won by Zach Johnson. Day finished tied for fourth, making this his sixth top-5 in a major.
He's too good not to win one, right? That was always the question that was asked among golf fans and analysts everywhere. On Sunday, he proved that he has what it takes to close out a major tournament, holding off every challenger that ever got close. People wondered if first-round leader Dustin Johnson could make a charge, but he took himself out of the conversation with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the very first hole. To his credit, he righted the ship with a back-nine 31 after two eagles. Branden Grace, who put himself in contention with a 64 on Saturday, got within two strokes, but doubled the 10th to take himself out. Former major champion Justin Rose was thought to be one of the men who could go low and overtake Day, but he also succumbed to the pressure with a double on the 13th. Jordan Spieth was merely trying to keep up with his playing partner. He holed some great par saves, but could never really make the charge that many wanted to happen. Sunday belonged to Jason Day. After a front-nine 33, Day seemed to be in complete control until a bogey on the 15th. But after a monstrous drive on the par-5 16th, Day had a choice to make. He could lay up or aim for the right side of the green. But with the pin tucked on the left side, Day was having none of that. He hit a towering 4-iron directly at the flag, and when his ball landed 20 feet from the pin, Day gave caddie and swing coach, Colin Swatton, a stone-faced look that ultimately said that the tournament was over. Day would two-putt for a birdie to put him at 20-under and that's where he would stay. He made solid pars on 17 and 18 to finish up, becoming incredibly emotional even before dropping the tap-in that made things official. After so many close calls, Jason Day is a major champion.
The win also vaults Day into the third spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. But although this was Jason's day, there was more history made as it pertains to those rankings.
By finishing in solo second place, Jordan Spieth ended the more than yearlong reign of Rory Mcilroy as the number one golfer in the world. This is Spieth's first time atop the Official World Golf Rankings and it certainly won't be the last. Seeking to become only the third man in history to win three major titles in one year (the other two being Ben Hogan in 1953 and Tiger Woods in 2000), Spieth finished three strokes behind Jason Day, but solidified his position as the best golfer in the world behind one of the greatest seasons in major championship history.
He won the Masters in April by tying the 18-under score that Tiger Woods set in 1997, outlasted the field at Chambers Bay in June to win the US Open, finished tied for fourth at The Open Championship, missing out on the playoff by only one stroke, and as noted, finished tied for second at the PGA Championship. He also finished the year at 54-under in the majors, eclipsing the mark by one stroke that Woods set in that unbelievable 2000 season. He is easily on track to be the player of the year, including wins at the Valspar and John Deere, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him holding a trophy or two at the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs. Although he didn't quite get the job done on Sunday, Spieth called it "as good a consolation prize I've ever had". I wouldn't worry, Jordan. I'm quite certain that the Wanamaker Trophy is in your future. I suppose being the best player in the world will have to do for now.
It was an amazing week at the 97th PGA Championship. Whistling Straits was unbelievably aesthetically pleasing to watch, and it will certainly make for more great television when the Ryder Cup comes to Wisconsin in 2020. Fans were given a ton of great golf from the best players in the world. We were given fantastic drama, a lot of class (you know you saw that thumbs up from Jordan Spieth), and a great and deserving champion. Honestly, does it get much better than this?