05/15/2016

Forget all the talk of a new “Big 3” in golf.  It’s mid-May but it’s plainly clear there is only one.

Jason Day further cemented his place atop the World Rankings, FedEx Cup standings and any other ranking you can think of, with a dominating performance at The PLAYERS Championship.  The 28-year old  Aussie won his third tournament of the year going wire-to-wire at TPC Sawgrass.  He opened the week by torching the Stadium course with a course record-tying 63 on Thursday, and followed with rounds of 66, 73 and 71 to finish at 15-under for a 4-stroke victory over Kevin Chappell.

The victory was worth $1.89 million for Day.

Storylines were easy to come by coming into the week with many of them focused on Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.  So let’s see how those and some others played out.

How would Spieth respond in his first tournament back since his back-nine meltdown at Augusta?  Not well.  Spieth missed the cut and didn’t seem the slightest bit confident in his ability to hole a putt from any distance.

When will McIlroy show up this year and reassert his status as one of the game’s elite?  Well, McIlroy looked prime for a run on the weekend after a second-round 64 that included a 29 on the back.  But a 75 on Saturday in difficult conditions ended any chance of his first win this year.  He finished T-12.

Is Rickie Fowler ready to join the game’s elite?  What about Masters champ Danny Willett?  No and no.  At least not right now.  The defending champion Fowler, like Spieth, missed the cut as did Willett who might still be nursing a Masters hangover.

How can Day possibly follow up a career year in 2015 that saw him win five times including his first major?  Pretty well.  Wins in successive weeks at Bay Hill and the WGC Match Play answered that and now he’s The PLAYERS Champion.  It’s not a major, but it sure looks good on a resume.  And the season is only halfway done.

Day used to have trouble closing on Tour, converting only one of his first seven 54-hole leads into a win.  He’s now five for his last five. 

He began Sunday with a four shot lead and although his lead was cut in half at one point, Day was never really seriously threatened. He could enjoy a leisurely stroll up the 18th. 

Day drives the ball long and straight and his confidence in his ability to be the game’s best is off the charts.  How quickly things can change in just over a year.  Fowler looked like he had finally arrived and Spieth was about to pick up his second major before his 22nd birthday.  Meanwhile Day kept everyone waiting to see if he had what it took to become a star. 

Wonder no more. 

There is Jason Day and there is everyone else.  Oakmont, Royal Troon and Baltusrol await.  He’ll be the favorite at every one.