It’s been a long way back for former world number one Jason Day but the signs were positive in California.
Jason Day’s climb back to the top of the golfing mountain is officially back on despite coming up short of ending four years of doubt and pain at the Farmer’s Insurance Open in California.
Less than 24 hours after fellow Queensland Ash Barty ended a 44-year national winning drought at the Australian Open, Day loomed large in the closing holes as he looked for his first win since 2018.
That charge gained spectacular momentum when Day holed out from the 14th fairway for an eagle to share the lead in the closing stages.
But he had to settle for a tie for third, just one shot behind winner Luke List twho secured victory in a playoff with over Will Zalatoris after back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes cruelled Day’s charge.
It was Day’s best result since the 2020 PGA Championship and first top three finish since 2018 but continued a winning drought that has now lasted 1364 days.
The world number 129 has declared he felt “close for long period” as he re-worked his swing around his ongoing physical issues which threatened to unravel a career that had hit such glorious heights.
“The good thing about it is I‘ve got a bad back. Well, I’ve had a bad back … I have to swing it a certain way that it doesn’t hurt,” Day said.
“But for me to be able to kind of do it in competition, especially under the pump today and keep myself in contention thereabouts, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.
“I know that I‘m heading in the right direction and I know that the work I’ve been putting into my game is starting to pay off. Obviously if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be in that position.
“So I know that things are looking up, I’ve just got to really just keep working hard. I’m in that stage of like trying to, you know, make these things more concrete and then if I can do that, then I’ll be in contention lot more and then the confidence comes back.
“Then when the confidence comes back, hopefully I win five, 10 times a year.”
After three rounds the 34-year-old went in to the final day as joint leader, but had meandered his way through an uninspiring front nine.
Two shots off the lead and seemingly failing to gather any momentum as he stood over his second short on the 14th fairway, Day soared in to the joint lead when he holed out for a stunning eagle
His wedge flew the pin, hit the green hard and fizzed back in to the hole as he fist-pumped as he joined playing partner Will Zalatoris and clubhouse leader Luke List at 15-under.
Day fanned his next tee shot right and it landed under a tree, but he recovered to make par as the nervy final stretch after so long without a victory began.
With current world number one Jon Rahm unable to muster his own last rally Day, a two-time winner at Torrey Pines and a major champion, Day then missed the green well short on the par three 16th.
He couldn’t get up and down for par, fell one back, then again off the tee on the 17th he sent his tee shot 50m right of the fairway.
Day’s challenge was officially extinguished with another bogey after copping a horrible lie in the bunker after his second shot fell short of the green before last hole birdie left him a single-short of the playoff.
After climbing in to a share of the lead in the third round Day said he really felt all the work he had done to re-find his best was coming together.
“Sometimes you kind of peak a little bit too early. It was nice to be able to hole that shot out, but I knew that 15 and 16 were going to be tough,” he said. .
“So I was thinking, well, if I can get through 15, 16 — unfortunately, I didn‘t, but if I can get through 15 and 16 I can birdie 17 and 18 and kind of put it away. Didn’t pan out the way that I wanted it to.
“But like I said, there’s a lot of good stuff. I played in my first tournament in a long while without any pain so that’s a good thing.”