On one of the wilder weekends in Players Championship history, the No. 1 player in the world emerged from the deepest field of the season to cruise to his second wire-to-wire win of the year.
After posting a course-record 63 and then backing it up with a 66 on Friday, Jason Day coasted to the weekend with the largest midpoint lead in Players history. It was hard to imagine Day relinquishing that kind of margin with the way he's playing right now. He's been a machine since the middle of last summer, winning now seven times in his last 17 events. That's a Tiger-esque rate that no one has approached except now Day.
Even some of the most tricked up ridiculous course conditions in the history of the PGA Tour weren't really going to derail Day's march to the win. Saturday's mess, when the PGA Tour lost the greens, definitely shuffled up the leaderboard and left the field completely in the dark about what to expect when they came back on Sunday. That was their biggest gripe in a weekend full of them -- that there was no reason or indication that the greens should have gotten out of control that way, but the Tour mismanaged it in a manner that we'll cite for a long time when discussing similar dramas.
Through all the carnage of Saturday afternoon, however, it was still Day who held with a four-shot cushion. Sunday's conditions were far less extreme, so there were numbers out there for the chasers. Justin Thomas posted the early clubhouse lead, firing a 7-under 65 to rocket up the board into second at 10-under for the tournament. The Players was one of several of Thomas' breakout performances last year. He went low on the weekend in his debut appearance and did more of the same this year -- especially with this finishing birdie that made him stick around to see if maybe, just maybe, Day would come back to the field a bit.
In addition to Thomas, Colt Knost also made an early charge up ahead of Day. He posted four birdies on his outward nine and also got to double-digit under-par to apply a little bit of pressure. Matt Kuchar, who won this event back in 2012, also got to 10-under late on the back nine, but everyone else was really just waiting and hoping Day would implode.
The world No. 1 just wasn't going to open that window for anyone, and there weren't THAT many birdies out there for the chasers. Sunday was not one of Day's strongest rounds and there were slip-ups, unlike those two bogey-free rounds to start the week. At the par-5 9th, Day flubbed three straight chip shots to make an inexcusable bogey. He should never drop a shot on a par-5.
Jason Day struggles at the 9th with 3 straight poor chips pic.twitter.com/jcOfTZFr8B— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) May 15, 2016
But again, because it was a par-5, that adventure off to the side of the green led to only one dropped shot because this is Jason Day and he bombs it up around every par-5 green in two. And the response? He birdied the next hole, the 10th, and then added another at No. 12 to erase any ground that the chasers had made up in desperation.
Ken Duke, the 495th player in the world, was an amazing sidebar story to Day's dominance. Duke took advantage of the wild Saturday conditions and posted a 65 -- a good 10 SHOTS better than the astronomical scoring average of the third round. It will go down as one of the rounds of the year, and even Day acknowledged that it should be the real course record, not the 63 that he (and four others) posted in much less severe conditions. Duke came back on Sunday and dropped in two birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine to take some of the spotlight, but there wasn't enough there for the 47-year-old longshot to make a serious run at the No.1 player in the world. No shame in that -- Duke's story was awesome to follow this weekend.
The Tour now heads to Texas for the two-week swing through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Day may have taken the drama out of it, but this was a nice wake-up week after some sleepy events since Augusta. We've got less than a month to Oakmont, and we're set up for a massive bout at the season's second major.
Here are your final results from Sawgrass:
|Place||Player||Score||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Total|
|T23||Si Woo Kim||-4||68||70||72||74||284|
|T57||Brendon de Jonge||3||71||67||76||77||291|
* * *
Weird golf rules, explained
Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more