By: Noah Thomas
With Jordan Spieth out of action this week, the $6.3 million purse of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was left up for grabs to a wide-open field made up of the PGA’s top golfers.
Jason Day led the field going into Sunday. The No. 3 golfer in the world shot out of the gate Thursday morning, shooting -6. He bested himself on Friday, gaining seven more strokes.
The man never ceases to amaze on the golf course. His excellent up-and-down ability turns him into a scoring machine. It’s skills like these that enabled him to put together some of the best performances of 2015—a -20 win in the PGA Championship and a -18 score through two rounds of the BMW Championship.
A less-than-stellar -2 outing on Saturday allowed him to maintain his lead at -15, putting him two shots ahead of Henrik Stenson, Kevin Chappell, and Troy Merritt, all of whom are tied at -13.
It would be Chappell who would give Day a run for his money on the final day of the weekend. One of those awe-inspiring up-and-downs on the final hole is what allowed the defending PGA Champion to secure a wire-to-wire victory. Another -2 outing was just enough to stave off Chappell’s -3 round, who finished one stroke shy his -17 score.
Chappell bogeyed on hole 17, giving Day a little breathing room.
Day’s second shot on the final hole landed in a greenside bunker, around 30 feet from the cup. The following bunker shot placed the ball less than five feet away, allowing Day to tap in for par and the win.
“[Chappell] bogeyed, obviously, and I was nervous standing over that tee shot,” Day said. “I missed it right, but the first thing that came into my mind was hit it long in the bunker, the back-left bunker. At least it’s straight down the grain. I can give myself an opportunity for par at least.”
It is one of those tournaments that, you know, the biggest guys usually win, and I was just very pleased to shake his hand,” he said.
Stinson and Merritt both posted -1 rounds to finished tied for third at -14. The top ten players in the field all posted a minimum -10 score for the tournament, showing that no one had a rough time at Bay Hill.
Day’s victory in Orlando allowed him to leapfrog Rory McIlroy in the world golf rankings, settling the Aussie star at No. 2 worldwide behind Spieth. McIlroy slipped back to No. 3 on Sunday.
The win is sure to give Day, who’s been riding high for almost a year now, a boost toward the Masters next month when he goes up against the field and defending champion Spieth.