Jason Day’s disappointment at not winning THE PLAYERS has been tempered by the knowledge that his game is in good shape less than a month out from The Masters.
The 2016 victor of the PGA TOUR’s flagship event shot a final round of even par 72 to finish four shots behind Sunday playing partner and ultimate champion Rory McIlroy, the Queenslander left to rue four missed opportunities on the par-5s in his final round.
Little more than a week ago Day walked off the course at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after just six holes with a back injury that required injections in order to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass.
After a second round of 6-under 66 Day spoke about being pain-free following the cortisone injections last weekend but it was some self-inflicted wounds that caused him some discomfort early in his round on Sunday.
A chip shot failed to progress past the greenside rough as he opened with a bogey, getting that shot back immediately with a sand-save from 14 feet at the par-5 second.
Further dropped shots at 4 and 9 made his back-9 assignment even more challenging, back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 not enough to spark a late charge as he finished tied for eighth.
“It was nice to be able to come back and birdie the second hole, but to be honest I played the par-5s poorly,” Day said post-round.
“I shot even par and they're all gettable, and if I would have birdied all four I would have been tied with Rory. Unfortunately I just wasn't good enough today and he was.
“I feel motivated going into next week, knowing that my game is in a half decent spot.”
McIlroy defied the doubters to add THE PLAYERS to his glittering resume, Day wrestling with the mixed emotions of seeing the tournament slip from his own fingers and into the arms of a worthy champion.
“It's definitely disappointing sometimes to see or get a front-row seat on a guy winning. It's more disappointing for me,” Day conceded, backing up this week to play the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort in Florida.
“Obviously I'm very happy for Rory. He's played some tremendous golf over the last few months and he's very deserving of it.”
“So it was nice to see that and I'm positive with how things are going.”
As Day moved up to 27th in the FedEx Cup standings Scott also advanced five places after finishing one shot behind his fellow Queenslander in a tie for 12th.
Beginning the final round five shots behind the leaders, Scott made a positive start with birdies at the 2nd and 4th holes but shots in the water at 11 and 16 led to bogeys that saw him post a final round of 2-under 70, a rare birdie at 18 a sweet way to finish.
Cameron Smith was the only other Australian to complete the four rounds, a Sunday 71 resulting in a tie for 56th.
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Cse), Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
T8 Jason Day 70-66-68-72—276 $US350,000
T12 Adam Scott 70-69-68-70—277 $253,125
T56 Cameron Smith 72-70-73-71—286 $27,250
MC Marc Leishman 71-73—144
MC Aaron Baddeley 75-73—148
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