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Day dominates best field in golf to win Players Championship

By DOUG FERGUSON
Created: 05/16/2016 12:23 PM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jason Day had a crystal trophy at his side and a pacifier in his pocket.

Only after he completed a wire-to-wire victory in The Players Championship did Day reveal that his 3-year-old son, Dash, had kept him up the night before with a stomach ailment. Exactly how the pacifier wound up in his pocket remained a mystery, though it was an illustration of his week at the TPC Sawgrass.

Nothing unsettled him. Nothing was going to stop him.

"I've got no stress in my life," Day said after his four-shot victory, his seventh in the last 10 months. "Other than Dash waking up last night ... Dash woke up and he threw up everywhere. How funny is that? I've got this pacifier here because it's in my pocket for some reason. But like that's one thing that I'm sitting here (because) I was enjoying myself. I prepped well, had great work. I felt good about my swing.

"Everything was coming along nicely."

For the rest of the PGA Tour, it must be frightening.

Dating to the Canadian Open last summer, Day's seven victories include a major, The Players, a World Golf Championship and two FedEx Cup playoff events. He already had won twice this year. And yet when he arrived at the TPC Sawgrass, all he heard was that he has not played this golf course very well. His most recent round was an 81 last year to miss the cut.

That now seems like a long time ago.

Day started this tournament by tying the course record with a 9-under 63 and breaking the 36-hole tournament record at 15-under par. He survived the scariest day at Sawgrass when the greens were as slick as ice. He overcame some errant shots and a few doubts on the front nine Sunday. And then he finished with yet another flawless performance on the back nine, where he played bogey-free all four rounds.

One year after Rickie Fowler turned in the most dynamic finish in Players Championship history, Day made Sunday look inevitable.

"I'm very motivated to win as much as I can right now," he said.

Day never let anyone closer than two shots the entire final round, though there were a few anxious moments, especially when he muffed three chips from just 40 feet right of the green on the par-5 ninth. A potential birdie turned into an unsettling bogey, and he had to make a 6-foot putt to avoid the score being worse.

And then, it was over.

Day rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10, another 15-foot birdie putt on No. 12, and the 28-year-old Australian never came close to bogey the rest of the way. He closed with a 1-under 71 to become the first wire-to-wire winner at The Players since Hal Sutton in 2000.

That was the year Sutton finished off Tiger Woods by saying, "Be the right club today," with a 6-iron into the 18th to sew up the victory. Day needed nothing that dramatic. Kevin Chappell was 5 under over his last 10 holes to finish second, though he never was a serious threat to win. No one was.

"It's no coincidence he's No. 1 in the world," Justin Thomas said after closing with a Sunday-best 65 to tie for third. "He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can't. His short game is ridiculous. I think I've pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf."

Day finished at 15-under 273 for his 10th career victory on the PGA Tour. Only Rory McIlroy with 11 has more victories among players still in their 20s.

Day is the third No. 1 player to win The Players Championship, joining Greg Norman (1994) and Tiger Woods (2001 and 2013).

Perhaps even more telling about the state of his game is that he joined Woods, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller as the only players since 1970 to go wire-to-wire twice in the same season. Day led from start to finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Day also won the Dell Match Play, winning six of his seven matches before they reached the 18th green.

Adam Scott referred to this run as "Tigeresque."

"That's one of the hardest things to do when you are hot like that, to keep pushing," Scott said. "But he has a very strong desire to achieve so much, and I think probably his goals are changing throughout this period, and he's expecting more and more of himself. He's got that ability to push himself and accomplish."

(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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