Sunday’s final-round match between Jason Day and Jordan Spieth at Whistling Straits was golf’s version of a heavyweight bout and it even had some muscle-flexing from the eventual winner.
For sure, every time Day seemed to deliver the knockout punch, Spieth would get up off the canvas and jab right back. There was one particular moment, though, when Spieth realized he was likely not going to catch his rival, who never gave up the lead he had coming into Sunday’s finale.
It was not after the incredible 49-foot birdie putt Day drained on the par-3 seventh to tie Tiger Woods’ major scoring record at 19-under par (he eventually set the mark with a 20-under tally for the week).
Day himself later pointed to the short but challenging par-4 14th as the point at which he was confident he was going to win his first major title.
With his four-shot edge down to three after he made par to Spieth’s birdie on No. 13, and with Branden Grace and Justin Rose making noise up ahead, Day blasted his approach out of a fairway bunker from 101 yards out and drained his 10-foot birdie putt. When Spieth had to settle for par, the 27-year-old Aussie never looked back.
Impressive. But for Spieth, the tide had turned a few holes earlier.
"That tee shot on 11," Spieth, who was three shots down as they got to the tee, cited Day’s 382-yard drive on the 573-yard par-5.
Spieth, who made Day grind out every shot in the tense finale, kept waiting for any opening his opponent might give him to chip away at his advantage. As he did almost flawlessly all round, Day found the left side of the fairway, and with Spieth tacking from right rough to left rough, the two-time major winner realized there would be no wobbling from the front-runner.
"I actually out loud turned to him and said 'Holy s***,’" Spieth stated. "I yelled it over to him and I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' And then he gave me a little bicep curl. 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."
SB Nation video archives: Urban golfing with a U.S. Open champ (2012)