Date: May 22, 2017
Author: Martin Blake

Near miss for Day in Texas

Jason Day has narrowly missed out on snapping his winning drought, losing a playoff to Billy Horschel at the Byron Nelson tournament in Texas.

The Australian, who has not won since May, 2016, carded a three-under par 68 today to reach a playoff with the American, missing a six-metre birdie putt at the 72nd hole that would have ended it in his favor.

But at the first playoff hole, the 18th, Day flared his nine iron shot a little right and left himself with a difficult, downhill 15-metre putt which ran by the hole, the former world No. 1 thinking at one point that it was rattling in.

After Horschel left his putt for a victory agonisingly short, then tapped in for par, Day had to make his putt from just beyond a metre back for par to extend it. He missed it left.

Day had employed a miraculous hole-out wedge shot for birdie on the 15th hole to get himself into the mix. The 25-metre shot, hit over a bunker, dropped straight in the cup after the Australian, tied for the lead at the time, appeared to be in trouble.

That put him in the outright lead, a shot ahead of Horschel, but then at the 16th hole he three-putted from the fringe of the par-five, while Horshcel, from a similar spot, made birdie to join the lead. They both made pars at the 17th and 18th so that a playoff was needed.

Afterward, a disappointed Day said he had wanted to go for the win. "I mean had a good line, pulled it a little bit and unfortunately when you're in the position like that you have to go for it,'' he said.

"I said the same thing to myself, 'you know what, if you're going to go, you got to go for it and try to win. I can't just lag it down there two feet short and  … I keep going back and forth. Got to go for win. Unfortunately, the first putt to the second putt just was a little tad different and just misread it, I guess. I don't know.

"The first time it went left to right and the second time it went right to left. So, I played good today. I feel really good about how things unfolded.''

Day has had an indifferent past six months including several withdrawals because of his recurring back injury, and some time away from the game as his mother, Dening, had cancer surgery in the United States.

His world ranking had dipped from No. 1 a year ago to No. 4.

In the 2016-17 season his nine previous starts had included two missed cuts and just one top-10 finish, his tied-fifth at the Pebble Beach Invitational.

But he roared into the tournament with a 63 on Saturday and he was always thereabouts today down the stretch.