Date: January 30, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

Day wins Torrey, rises to No. 10

It took six playoff holes, but Jason Day is finally back on the winners’ list.

Day, the 30-year-old Australian whose previous win was at the Players Championship in May 2016, outlasted Alex Noren of Sweden to win a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

The players had been required to sleep on it overnight because bad light intervened on Sunday, coming back in the early hours of Monday to finish it, with the crowds at Torrey Pines all gone.

They played the par-five 18th  for the fourth time in the playoff, and Day made birdie despite an errant drive, while Noren, the European Ryder Cup star, hit his approach into the pond in front of the green.

After Noren’s five-wood from more than 200 metres in the cool morning air slid down the bank and into the water, Day stepped up to his lob wedge shot from the fairway and closed the door by hitting it to kick-in distance. Noren had one last chance with his chip from behind the pond, but it was over once the Aussie tapped in his birdie putt.

He played a great playoff, taking birdie at the 18th four times from four attempts, and almost winning it outright with a birdie putt at the par-four 17th hole on Sunday that pulled up one roll short of the hole.

It is his 11th win on the United States PGA Tour and it will elevate him from 14th on the world rankings back to No. 10.

“Yes it’s been a long time coming,’’ he said. “Last year wasn’t the greatest season for me. I had some stuff off course that was distracting for me with my Mum having cancer. It’s special, because I worked hard in the off-season to get back to this position.’’

Ironically Day had been unsure on Wednesday if he could play the tournament at all; he withdrew from the pro-am because of back pain. His back injury is a constant issue for him, and needs regular maintenance. Day said he had “shooting’’ pains down both legs as a result of the injury, which relates to a disc bulge, and needed to have an MRI scan last week.

 “I’ve got to keep myself strong, keep my core strong and try and improve, and hopefully, I’m here til 40, 45, 50 hopefully,’’ he said. “That’d be nice.’’

He also had a new caddie on the bag, close friend Rika Batibasaga. But Torrey Pines is a favorite haunt; he won the world junior there in 2004, and this tournament in 2015.

Day has set himself the target of returning to No. 1 in the world, a mantle he held for 51 weeks in 2015 and 2016, after his first winless year since 2013.

“Last year was a good kick in the butt, you know, not really being talked about — and being talked about for the wrong reasons,” Day said. “Last year I felt mentally stressed but also run down, burnt out. It was hard for me to be on the golf course, but this year my whole mindset's different. I'm very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot and I know that the only way to get back to the No. 1 spot is win and that's what I've just got to do.

“I've said it for the longest time, I've always wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world. I got there for 51 weeks but I've always wanted to be a dominant No. 1 player in the world.’’