Charlotte, N.C. — Jason Day channeled his inner LeBron James and captured his second PGA Tour event of the season.
Day said he drew inspiration from James’ Game 3 buzzer-beater against the Toronto Raptors before he pulled off his own clutch shot on Sunday.
Leading by a stroke, Day’s 7-iron hit the flagstick on the 230-yard, par-3 17th hole, setting up a 3-foot birdie putt and a two-shot victory over Aaron Wise and Nick Watney at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“That is what I am most happy about,” Day said. “When you are on call to do something good and you pull it off, to be clutch like that, with a lot of heart. … I’m glad I watched LeBron James this morning.”
The 30-year-old Australian — an Ohio resident who can be found courtside at Cavaliers games — fought through some wayward tee shots and self-doubt to shoot a 2-under 69 on Sunday. He finished at 12-under 272.
“One of the best wins I have ever had,” said Day, who never felt on top of his game on Sunday.
He missed more than half the fairways — including an ugly hook into the water on the par-4 14th — hit just eight greens in regulation and made four bogeys on the day, squandering a three-shot lead on the back nine. But he toughed it out on the final three holes at Quail Hollow nicknamed the “Green Mile,” playing them in 2 under.
Day caught his biggest break on 17, where the ball bounced four times and was moving fast when it hit the pin, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
It came on a hole with water short, left and long of the green that gave players fits all day because the putting surface was so firm that it was tough to stop the ball.
“Things like that are what you need to win tournaments,” Day said.
Day, who has had trouble with the closing hole in the past, then had the luxury of hitting an iron off the 18th tee, knowing he had a two-shot lead. He got up-and-down from the rough right of the green to finish with a par.
“You play sit there and play mental games with yourself, subconsciously saying, ‘You can’t do this. You’re going to fail, you’re going to fail,’” Day said. “I just kept on saying to myself, ‘Forget about it and keep pushing.’”
It was the Day’s 12th career win on the PGA Tour. The former world No. 1 also won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year after a winless 2017.
The win elevated him from 14th in the world to No. 7, and Day said this is a “step in the right direction” toward regaining the top spot as the world’s best gather for the Players Championship next week.
“Obviously power off the tee, he’s a phenomenal driver,” said Phil Mickelson, who also shot 69 and finished five shots back. “And he’s a great putter. He’s got a very deft, soft touch. He’s one of the best putters in the game. So you put those two things together, and he’s not lacking in wedge play, either. … So he’s got strengths in all the areas that he needs.”
The 21-year-old Wise was thrilled with the best finish of his career.
He wound up sharing second place when Watney drained a 59-foot putt on the 18th. Day pumped his fist and cheered on his playing partner before he rolled in the winning putt.
“I knew I had to play incredible golf to be there and I was able to do it,” Wise said. “When the pressure was on, I kept my head about me and pulled off some incredible shots.”
If Day was expecting a challenge from some of the other high-profile players in the field, it never materialized.
Mickelson opened with two bogeys, failing to capitalize on the momentum from his third-round 64. Rory McIlroy concluded an up-and-down week with a 71 to finish at 3 under. Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas were one shot behind him.
Tiger Woods was a non-factor too, shooting 74 to finish 14 shots back. He failed to make a birdie in the final round of a tournament for the first time since 2014.
“I didn’t putt well again,” Woods said. “The chances I did have, I missed them all. Just a bad week.”
At The Colony, Texas, Sung Hyun Park chipped in from behind the green for birdie on the final hole for a 5-under 66 and a one-shot victory in the LPGA Texas Classic, a tournament cut to 36 holes because of rain.
Because of the rain delays and stop-and-start nature of the tournament, Park was part of a five-way tie for the lead going into the second and final round. However, she finished 90 minutes before the tournament ended because groupings were not changed from the opening round.
Park finished at 11-under 131.
Lindy Duncan birdied her last three holes for a 64 to finish one shot behind. Yu Liu of China had a 66 and was another shot back.
Park was the LPGA Tour rookie of the year and shared the LPGA player of the year award with So Yeon Ryu last year. This was her first victory of the year, and she was the 11th winner in 11 tournaments on the LPGA Tour this year.
With a 36-hole event that began with a full field, some players went 35 holes on Saturday and returned to play one hole on Sunday.
At The Woodlands, Texas, Bernhard Langer won his first PGA Tour Champions event of the year when he saved par on the final hole and closed for a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory in the Insperity Invitational.
Langer had to rally from as many as four shots behind in the final round at the The Woodlands Country Club. He birdied two straight holes around the turn, added birdies on both par 5s on the back nine and then had to scramble for par on the 18th hole.
He was right of the fairway among pine trees blocking his path over the water to the green. Langer was behind a TV structure, however, and chose to take relief to the right away from the trees. It left him a blind shot, but without pines in his way. He went just right of the green, hit a delicate chip to just under 4 feet and made the putt.
Paul Goydos (68) led for much of the back nine until a bogey on the 18th hole. He tied for second with Jeff Maggert and Bart Bryant, who each had a 69.
The 60-year-old Langer won for the 37th time on the PGA Tour Champions, which trails only Hale Irwin’s 45. It was Langer’s fourth win at the Insperity Invitational.
Langer had gone nine senior starts without winning. He had lost in playoffs his previous two tournaments.
The victory moves to Langer to the top of the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
At St. Albans, England, Ireland won the second edition of the GolfSixes tournament as Gavin Moynihan and Paul Dunne beat the French pair of Romain Wattel and Mike Lorenzo-Vera in the final.
The Irish overcame the England Women’s team of Charley Hull and Georgia Hall 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the six-hole match play event, then beat South Korea in the semifinals, with Moynihan chipping in for a birdie on the first playoff hole.
Moynihan and Dunne then defeated France 2-0 at Centurion Club to secure the first prize of 100,000 euros each. That almost doubled Moynihan’s career earnings on the European Tour, for just two days’ work. The 23-year-old has not made a halfway cut in eight events this season.
The European Women’s team of Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda lost to Australia in the quarterfinals.