Jason Day began his pre-Augusta preparations with a thrilling playoff victory over Arnold Palmer’s new favorite player, Victor Dubuisson, in the finals of last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship while his TaylorMade stablemate, Anna Nordqvist, outlasted world No. 1 Inbee Park for her first LPGA Tour win in five years.
Day rode a 10.5-degree TaylorMade SLDR driver into the PGA Tour winner’s circle for the second time in his career with long drives off the tee and superb work on the greens with a Ghost Tour Monte Carlo prototype. He outlasted a go-for-broke Dubuisson 1-up, in a thrilling, 23-hole finale at Dove Mountain.
The 26-year-old from Queensland also co-starred (along with the likenesses of Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Dustin Johnson) as a puppet, in TaylorMade’s new "Speed Police" commercial that debuted to favorable reviews last week.
A world away from Tucson, Nordqvist went wire-to-wire for her first tour victory since 2009 and her first as a TaylorMade-addidas Golf player with a two-shot victory over Park at the LPGA Thailand tourney.
"I’m speechless, to be honest," Nordqvist told reporters after finishing with a 4-under 68 to get to 15-under for the week.
Park, the defending champion with six wins in 2013, carded a flawless 66 in the final round of her first start of the young season.
"I played one shot better than last year and didn't win," said Park. "Still a very good result. Tells me I improved a little.''
Nordqvist, who announced her new deal with the Carlsbad equipment vendor earlier this month, had a 10.5-degree TaylorMade JetSpeed driver in her bag, along with a 15-degree SLDR 3-wood, a 21-degree SLDR rescue club, Tour Preferred CB irons (4-9), and four wedges. She putted a TaylorMade Tour Preferred X ball with a TaylorMade Ghost DA-12 flat stick.
The women were long finished for the week by the time Day and Dubuisson took center stage in the Arizona desert for the championship tilt after beating Rickie Fowler and Ernie Els, respectively, in the semifinals.
Day, who, The Australian contended, privately believes he, and not Adam Scott, should have become the first Aussie to win the Masters despite blowing a share of the lead down the stretch last year at Augusta, captured his second PGA Tour win and the first since 2010.
He appeared set for a rout when he took a 3-up lead over Dubuisson after 12 holes, but the formerly little-known Frenchman with fairy dust in his wedges made one unbelievable shot after another to force a playoff and extend the match to 23 holes. When his opponent’s magical mystery ride finally came to an end, Day was the last of 64 players standing and pumped and jacked to take his winning ways to the Masters in April.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Augusta. It's my favorite spot of the year," Day told reporters about his chance for redemption after last year’s late-innings collapse. "If I went to heaven, I think Augusta would be it, with my family. I absolutely love the place. Looking forward to getting back there and seeing familiar faces and hopefully competing and playing well there."
In addition to his longest and shortest bats, Day played a 17.5 degree RBZ 4-wood, a Tour Preferred MC 2-iron, Tour Preferred MC irons (3-9), three wedges, and the same ball that Nordqvist dropped into the hole for her winning putt in Thailand.
Speaking of which, the three-time LPGA Tour winner had to hold off playing partner Park as well as a hard-charging Michelle Wie, who, also in the final threesome, got within one stroke early on Sunday when she birdied the par-4 sixth hole after Nordqvist posted a double-bogey on No. 5.
That was as close as Wie would come, however, as Nordqvist birdied the seventh and five of the first seven on the back nine. Wie finished in fourth, a shot behind Catriona Matthew.
"Inbee kept making birdies and Michelle was playing great," said Nordqvist, four strokes ahead of Park and Wie entering the round. "I couldn't really breathe until the last putt, so obviously I could just let go on the last putt."