CHARLOTTE – Watching Jason Day alternately dominate, then struggle, through Sunday’s final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte had the golfing world wonder if he could pull it all together in time to win.
Day had plenty of doubts himself, especially when he really didn’t know where his shots were going to go off the tee, a predicament that can lead to some consternation on a course as demanding as Quail Hollow.
Day quieted those doubters, and steadied himself, via a tour-de-force of golf that featured birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and a scrambling par on the last to close out a final round 2-under 69 and finish at 12-under-par 272, winning by two strokes over Aaron Wise and Nick Watney.
Wise fired a 68 on Sunday and was tied for the lead on the 16th green. Watney, meanwhile, rolled in a 59-foot putt on the 18th hole to secure his best finish on the PGA Tour since he was second at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February 2015.
Day had an up-and-down round that included four birdies and four bogeys over the first 15 holes to drop into a tie for the lead with Wise. He then hit his approach on the par-4 16th to 11 feet and poured in a snaking, downhill putt for a birdie to regain the lead.
Day then hit a pinpoint 7-iron shot from 230 yards off the flagstick, with the ball stopping four feet from the hole. He calmly rolled in the putt to take a two-shot lead to the closing hole.
Day started the final round with a two-shot lead and ended it that way as well, but nothing was easy along the way.
“I had no idea where the ball was going today, especially off the tee,” Day said afterward. “I missed a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. But my short game stood the test, which was nice.
“This is one of the best wins I’ve ever had just because how hard everything was today.”
The fact that Day won with less than his “A” game was a testament to his overall talent and the fact that Quail Hollow gave up nothing — making some of the best players in the world earn everything they got on Sunday.
“The biggest thing (when you are inconsistent) is that you start playing mental games with yourself. You’re thinking and your subconscious is telling you, ‘You are not going to get past this, you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail.’ I just kept saying to myself to forget about those and to just keep pushing, and just try to give myself opportunities.
“I was putting great pretty much all week and I had some opportunities coming in — it was great to birdie 16 and 17.”
Bryson DeChambeau (68) birdied the 18th to finish alone in fourth at 276. Phil Mickelson carded a 69 on Sunday to tie for fifth with England’s Paul Casey (71) and Peter Uihlein (71), with Masters champion Patrick Reed another shot back after a final-round 69.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (69) tied for ninth with Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Luke List and Sam Saunders at 279, seven shots off Day’s winning total.
Day, ranked 14th in the world coming into the week, earned his second win of the season — he won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego in January — and the 12th PGA Tour title of his career.
Wise’s runner-up finish was his best in 25 career PGA Tour events and just the second top-10 showing of his career.
“I was proud of the way I played and especially the way I handled the final three holes, which are really tough,” Wise said. “I had so much adrenaline going and actually thought I had a chance to win — I was tied for the lead on the 16th green with Jason. It was cool to be able to pull off some of those shots and to show myself what I could do under that pressure.
“There were times when I was super calm and others when I looked at the leaderboard, saw I was close, and had to try to calm myself down. I’ve done a lot of work on the mental side of the game and that helped.”
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shot a 71 on Sunday and finished tied for 16th. Justin Thomas (70) and Rickie Fowler (73) were among a group of six golfers tied for 21st along with Tony Finau, who fired a 66 on Sunday, the lowest score in the final round.
Tiger Woods struggled to a 74 in the final round, his worst score of the tournament, and was tied for 55th, 14 shots behind Day.
The PGA Tour moves south to northwest Florida beginning Thursday for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
–Field Level Media