Friday 23 February 2018

Jason Day up to second in world rankings after Bay Hill victory

Jason Day claimed a dramatic win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday
Jason Day claimed a dramatic win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday

Jason Day survived a rollercoaster final round to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and move above Rory McIlroy to second in the world rankings.

Day carded five birdies and three bogeys in a closing 70 at Bay Hill to finish 17 under par, a shot ahead of American Kevin Chappell.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who has now finished third, second, fifth and eighth in his last four appearances in the event, was two shots further back alongside Troy Merritt, who surged into a share of the lead with five birdies in a row from the 10th, only to double-bogey the 18th.

Day took a two-shot lead into the final round and edged further ahead by chipping in for birdie on the second after a poor tee shot came up well short of the green, only to bogey the next two holes and fall into a tie with Chappell, who had birdied the third.

A birdie on the fifth took Day back in front but Chappell, who was playing in the penultimate group, two-putted the par-five sixth for birdie and then saw Day bogey the same hole after pulling his approach into the water.

Chappell, who is yet to win on the PGA Tour, briefly moved two clear with a birdie on the eighth, but promptly bogeyed the ninth before Day's superb approach to the same hole left him a tap-in birdie.

Stenson made it a three-way tie for the lead with a birdie on the 10th but would go on to bogey the 14th and 16th, while Chappell moved back into the lead thanks to birdies on the 13th and 16th.

However, Chappell dropped a shot on the 18th to open the door for the chasing pack and Day birdied the 17th from 12 feet before saving par from a greenside bunker on the last to claim his eighth PGA Tour title and a sixth in just over 13 months.

Day admitted he had not been at his best during a front nine of 36, but told Sky Sports: "Having a two-shot lead and winning wire-to-wire was not easy. This is a really rewarding win for me.

"To be able to get in the house and make the par on the last where I needed to was very satisfying. There was not one shot on the golf course I hit today where I felt comfortable. I tried to be as deliberate as possible and it worked out on the back side for me.

"I was really nervous over that putt (on 18) after being out of contention for a while and being able to get back into it and knowing that I won wire-to-wire is really special.

"I was all out of sorts on the front side but I kept saying to myself over and over again you are not out of it, be patient, you will find some opening and once you do make sure you take it, and 17 was it."

A disappointed Chappell was left to rue bogeys on the ninth and 18th in his closing 69 and added: "I really felt like I handled myself well and hit some good shots under the circumstances.

"You are going to hit some bad shots and I would love to have nine and 18 back, but that's hindsight and we don't get that. This is going to motivate me to be that close and I am really looking forward to getting back into it in Houston."

Earlier in the day, McIlroy admitted he had to improve his mental approach after claiming an unwanted record despite finishing a frustrating week in style.

McIlroy carded two eagles and five birdies in a closing 65 to finish joint 27th, but a double bogey on the 14th was his sixth of the week and his most ever in a PGA Tour event.

"It's a nice way to round off the week," McIlroy said. "I was really disappointed coming off the course yesterday after feeling like my game was in really good shape coming here - you've seen glimpses of that this week with a 67 which could have been a lot better on Friday and then a 65 today. I just need to eradicate my mistakes.

''Even today I threw in a double bogey, which has sort of been the story of, not just my week, but my year so far. If I can get rid of those mistakes and play some of the golf that I have been playing, there is no reason why I can't go on and contend a lot of weeks this year.

''I just can't beat myself up mentally; that's something that I have done this week. I've really beaten myself up for hitting bad shots and making mistakes and I can't do that because you can compound one mistake with another and then you get into a bit of a lull where you play a bad nine holes and you just can't afford to do that.

''Mentally I have to be better and bounce back better. I wasn't able to do that for a couple of days this week but I was able to do that today for the most part. If I can just be a bit better mentally then hopefully that will be the key for me.''

McIlroy's defence of the WGC-Dell Match Play title starts in Texas on Wednesday, but the 26-year-old admits his main focus is trying to complete the career grand slam by winning the Masters from April 7-10.

''It's all about Augusta,'' McIlroy told Sky Sports. ''Next week is a bit of a weird week for my final competitive week going into Augusta but it will be great to get some matches under my belt.

''Match play is like being in contention on a weekend from the very first hole so I think that's going to be a great thing for me to see if I can play this sort of golf under pressure when I need to.

"I am excited for next week but obviously looking ahead, I'm very excited for Augusta.''

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