The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C.–Jason Day channelLed his inner LeBron James and captured his second PGA Tour event of the season.
Day said he drew inspiration from James’ Game 3 buzzer-beater against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night before he pulled off his own clutch shot yesterday.
Leading by a stroke, Day’s seven-iron hit the flagstick on the 230-yard, par-three 17th hole, setting up a three-foot birdie putt and a two-shot victory over Aaron Wise and Nick Watney at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“That is what I am most happy about,” Day said. “When you are on call to do something good and you pull it off, to be clutch like that, with a lot of heart. . . .
“I’m glad I watched LeBron James this morning.”
The 30-year-old Australian–an Ohio resident who can be found courtside at Cavaliers’ games–fought through some wayward tee shots and self-doubt to shoot a two-under 69 yesterday.
He finished at 12-under 272.
“One of the best wins I have ever had,” said Day, who never felt on top of his game yesterday.
He missed more than half the fairways, including an ugly hook into the water on the par-four 14th, hit just eight greens in regulation, and made four bogeys on the day–squandering a three-shot lead on the back nine.
But he toughed it out on the final three holes at Quail Hollow nicknamed the “Green Mile,” playing them in two-under.
Day caught his biggest break on 17, where the ball bounced four times and was moving fast when it hit the pin, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
It came on a hole with water short, left, and long of the green that gave players fits all day because the putting surface was so firm that it was tough to stop the ball.
“Things like that are what you need to win tournaments,” Day reasoned.
Day, who has had trouble with the closing hole in the past, then had the luxury of hitting an iron off the 18th tee, knowing he had a two-shot lead.
He got up-and-down from the rough right of the green to finish with a par.
“You play sit there and play mental games with yourself, subconsciously saying, ‘You can’t do this. You’re going to fail, you’re going to fail,'” Day admitted.
“I just kept on saying to myself, ‘Forget about it and keep pushing.'”
It was the Day’s 12th career win on the PGA Tour. The former world No. 1 also won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year after a winless 2017.
The win elevated him from 14th in the world to No. 7, and Day said this is a “step in the right direction” toward regaining the top spot as the world’s best gather for the Players Championship next week.
The 21-year-old Wise, meanwhile, was thrilled with the best finish of his career.
He wound up sharing second place when Watney drained a 59-foot putt on the 18th.
“I knew I had to play incredible golf to be there and I was able to do it,” Wise said.
“When the pressure was on, I kept my head about me and pulled off some incredible shots.”