By Ann Liguori
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An emotional Jason Day won his first major championship with a record-breaking 20-under-par 268 on Sunday, becoming the first player in golf history to finish a major at 20-under.
The 27-year-old Aussie beat Jordan Spieth by three shots, not letting him get any closer than two shots, which is how much Day led Spieth when they started the final round of the PGA Championship.
Day kept his nerves under control, crushed his drives off the tee and sunk seven birdies and several clutch par saves on his way to victory. He shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday.
“It was probably the hardest round of golf that I’ve ever played,” Day said. “Just thinking about it, knowing that I was very confident going into the round, feeling good about myself and feeling good about how I was driving the ball, how I was hitting shots into the greens, and especially how I was putting.”
“I knew today was going to be tough but I didn’t realize how tough it was going to be,” he added. “I learned a lot about myself, again, being able to finish the way I did. The experiences that I’ve had in the past with previous major finishes has definitely helped me prepare myself for a moment like this.”
Spieth finished with a 17-under 271, in second place, overtaking Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings. McIlroy finished in 17th place, 9 under par for the championship.
McIlroy wasted little time in tweeting a congratulatory message:
It’s been a great year for Spieth. The 22-year-old won both the Masters and the U.S. Open, just missed getting into the playoff in the Open Championship, and finished second here at Whistling Straits. Spieth set out to be the first to ever win the “American Slam” in the same season, but as the final round progressed, even Spieth knew there was not much he could do to catch Day, who seemed unflappable.
“The tee shot on 11,” Spieth recalled. “If he gets a little off line there, either way, he has to lay up and it’s probably a par. I thought at the time my ball was still going to be OK. It was going to be good enough to reach the green … but when he hit that tee ball and I walked up and saw where it was, I turned to him and said, ‘holy —-‘ you’ve got to be kidding me.’ And then he gave me a little bicep. And when he hit that shot and he had what looked like a wedge into the hole, I knew I was going to be playing uphill from there.”
What a year it has been for Jason Day. And the near-misses at both the U.S. Open, battling vertigo there, and also holding a 54-hole lead at the Open Championship contributed to Day’s mental toughness and tenacity.
It only seemed fitting that on a gorgeous Sunday at Whistling Straits, Day got what he deserved — his fist major title.
“I guess you can take me off the (list of) best players without a major now,” Day said with a smile. “So, I mean, it’s good to be a major champion.”
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