By Sam McPherson
If the Wells Fargo Championship this week at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, was any indication, then the golf world needs to take notice: Jason Day is back in a big way. After a winless 2017 on the PGA Tour, the Australian, who was ranked No. 1 in the world for a bit back in 2015, has now won twice this season, claiming a two-shot victory at Quail Hollow. He shot 12-under par, carding all four rounds in the 60s.
Day previously won the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and this victory moves up into second place in the FedExCup standings. Day’s strong play through four days also earned him $1.386 million. Americans Nick Watney and Aaron Wise tied for second place with 10-under overall scores.
There was a little drama on Sunday as Day started the fourth round with a two-shot lead and then struggled to hit fairways and greens for most of the round. Day carded four bogeys to blow what had become a three-shot edge. But he recovered over the final three holes at Quail Hollow — the infamous Green Mile — including birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to carve out the victory.
That special ability to grind out a win against tough competition is what put Day atop the world rankings late in 2015, when he won the PGA Championship and several other events. Day’s tee shot on the par-3 17th hole might be the one he remembers for some time. As he was protecting a one-shot lead, his ball hit the flagstick and stopped three feet away for an eventual birdie putt that all but clinched the event for Day.
American John Peterson led the Wells Fargo Championship after the first round with a 6-under par effort, as several golfers trailed him by two strokes after Thursday, including fellow American Peter Malnati. Day was four shots back after the first round.
Malnati then followed up his 4-under effort on Thursday with a 3-under par round on Friday to take the lead midway through the tournament. He had a one-stroke edge over both Day, who shot 4-under on Friday, and Wise, who posted 3-under, at that point. Tiger Woods posted 71-73 in the first two rounds to barely make the cut on his way to finishing 55th in the event at 2-over par overall.
Day was one of the only golfers high on the leaderboard after Friday’s round to stay there on Saturday, as he posted a 4-under score for the day to stay two strokes ahead of a hard-charging field at 10-under for the tournament. Watney shot 5-under on Saturday to move into second place at 8-under par overall, while three other golfers remained three behind Day at 7-under.
Phil Mickelson shot a 64 on Saturday to put himself in good position on Sunday. He finished in a tie for fifth at 7-under after a 69 in the fourth round.
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Next On The Tee: The Players Championship
The unofficial “fifth major” is next up on the PGA Tour, as everyone heads to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, for The Players Championship at Sawgrass and its Stadium course. The event and its huge purse, $11 million total, attract the best players in the world, and this year is no exception. Si Woo Kim is the defending champion and the youngest champion of the event ever. This year, the winner will earn three-year exemptions for all four majors on Tour — not to mention a five-year PGA Tour exemption.
The field for The Players Championship is a “Who’s Who?” for professional golf: Day won this event in 2016, and Woods has won it twice (2001, 2013). Mickelson took The Players in 2007, although some young stars on the Tour — such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth — have not won the event yet. Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of this event, which dates back to 1974. The Golden Bear won it in 1974, 1976, and 1978.`
As for the course itself, everyone knows the 17th hole: the infamous Island Green. But Sawgrass is also the elder statesman of all TPC, designed by Pete and Alice Dye. It opened in 1980 and has become one of the iconic courses in the sport worldwide. Rickie Fowler’s 2015 victory in the event saw him birdie the 17th hole three times on Sunday, including playoff holes, to win the event in dramatic fashion.
That sequence is the perfect example of why golf fans all over the world love this event at Sawgrass.
The TPC at Sawgrass Stadium course plays 7,189 yards long and is a par 72.
Favorites: Jason Day, Si Woo Kim, Phil Mickelson
Players to Watch: Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.