Day holds off Dubuisson to win epic Match Play

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2014, 12:41 am

Jason Day has long been viewed as one of the PGA Tour’s supremely talented players – a powerful, driven 20-something who had forged a solid start to his career, and tantalized peers and observers with his potential, but ultimately had few big-time titles to show for it. 

Five days in the desert changed that narrative – barely.

The 26-year-old Australian captured his first World Golf Championship event Sunday at Dove Mountain, where he squandered a late 2-up lead, withstood a few all-world short-game shots from Victor Dubuisson and held on to win an epic Match Play Championship final in 23 holes. It was the first time that the Match Play final has gone into overtime since the inaugural event in 1999, and the longest-ever final match.

“Obviously I didn’t want it to go this long, but Vic, man, he has a lot of guts,” said Day, who earned $1.53 million for winning the five-day, six-round event.

WGC-Accenture Match Play scoring

WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket

WGC-Accenture Match Play: Articles, videos and photos

This one sure didn’t start out like an instant classic, with Day winning Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to take a 3-up lead into the back nine. And it sure seemed like it would be Day’s week when he nearly holed his third shot (from 269 yards) on the par-5 11th. But he watched as Dubuisson began chipping away at the advantage, first by winning the 13th with birdie, then by sinking a must-make 10-footer on 17.

Then came the dramatics.

Day three-putted the final green for bogey, while Dubuisson made a dazzling up-and-down from the greenside bunker to push the match into overtime. 

On the first extra hole – the par-4 first – Dubuisson launched his approach into the desert behind the green, his ball settling near a jumping cactus and behind a TV cable. Somehow, he slashed out to 5 feet for the halve. 

It seemed like the match would end on the next hole, only Dubuisson had other ideas. Just like in regulation, his approach into the par-4 ninth tumbled into the desert left of the green. This time, he straddled a cactus and hacked out to 7 feet. Watching from behind the green, Day could only shake his head and laugh. Of course Dubuisson buried the putt to extend the match. 

After halving the next two holes, the players headed to the drivable 15th. After sending his drive right of the green, Dubuisson couldn’t get his flop shot anywhere near the hole, sending it to the back of the green, about 30 feet away. With a slightly better angle, and from the intermediate rough, Day was able to chip to 3 feet and make birdie – his first won hole since No. 9.  

Dubuisson, vying to become the first player to win in his WGC debut, was a relative unknown to many in the U.S., but he showed his match-play chops by knocking off Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Els en route to the finals.

The 23-year-old Frenchman pocketed $906,000 for runner-up honors and should move inside the top 25 in the world rankings. What’s more, his star-making finals appearance here would seem to make European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley’s decision that much easier.

“You’re going to see a lot of him for years to come,” Day said of the former No. 1-ranked amateur. 

As for Day, it has been 45 months since he broke through at the 2010 Nelson. Just 22 at the time, he seemed poised to add to his victory haul in a hurry. It didn’t quite pan out that way, however, as Day battled a nagging wrist injury and started a family with wife Ellie.

Though winless on Tour since 2010, Day recorded a victory last December at the World Cup – not an official Tour event – and in recent years has become one of the most consistent performers in the majors. Since 2011, he has five top 10s in golf’s biggest events, including a pair of top 3s in 2013 (led Masters with four holes to play).

Now, the former wunderkind – in 2007, at age 19, he won on the Tour – is expected to move to No. 4 in the world rankings. He finally has another title to go with all that promise, and a hard-fought WGC at that.  

“The biggest thing was how much do I want it,” Day said. “I kept saying that to myself last night. I’m glad I could finish it off, but it was a close one.”

Meanwhile, in the consolation match, Rickie Fowler birdied the first extra hole to defeat Ernie Els and grab solo third, netting him $630,000. Els took home $510,000.

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.