AFTER nearly withdrawing due to a family tragedy, Jason Day made an emotional return to golf at the World Cup to win his first tournament in more than three years at Royal Melbourne.
His seven-foot par-saving putt on the 16th hole yesterday held off a faltering Thomas Bjorn. Day had a 70 for a ten-under total of 274, two strokes ahead of Denmark’s Bjorn, who finished with a 71 after two late bogeys.
The World Cup was Day’s first tournament in five weeks and came less than two weeks after he learned that eight of his relatives, including his grandmother, had died in the devastating typhoon in the Philippines.
His mother, who emigrated to Australia from the Philippines 30 years ago, and sister were just off the 18th green at Royal Melbourne. They both hugged him as he walked to the scoring tent to sign his card. Day said: “It’s just been an amazing tournament for me. My mother, my family, coming down to support me. I’m just so happy the hard work has paid off, and I’m glad it happened in Melbourne.
Bjorn added: “Obviously a fraction disappointed, I didn’t play that great today.
“But I couldn’t be happier for Jason. He has gone through a rough time of late and for him to even be here is a big thing – and then to go and win…”
Day’s last tournament victory came at the Byron Nelson Championship on the US PGA Tour in 2010, although he’s had four top-five finishes in majors since 2011.
Adam Scott finished third after a 66, three strokes behind.
Day earned $1.2 million (£740,000) for winning the individual title and helped Australia win the team portion of the World Cup. Day and Scott shared the $600,000 (£370,000) first-place team prize.
American Matt Kuchar shot 71 to finish fourth in individual stroke-play, three behind Day.
Ryo Ishikawa (69) of Japan and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who shot 70, finished tied for fifth, seven behind the winner. Scotland’s Martin Laird finished 12 shots adrift of Day, while compatriot Stephen Gallacher was another four shots further back. Both had rounds of 73 yesterday.
Day led by four strokes after nine holes thanks to a big swing on the fifth and sixth. Day bogeyed the par-3 fifth after going into a bunker and Bjorn birdied, leaving them tied for the lead.
On the sixth, Day’s wedge from about 80 yards rolled into the hole for eagle. Bjorn, who was in the rough with his tee shot, made bogey and there was a three-shot swing. And on the next hole, Day increased his lead to four when the Danish player three-putted for bogey.
Day ran into big problems on the tenth when his tee shot went into the left rough. Trying to advance it up the fairway instead of just chipping out sideways, he sent the ball back into the rough.
He chipped back out to the fairway with his third, put his fourth on the green and two-putted for double-bogey. That reduced his lead to two over Scott and Bjorn. Birdies by Bjorn on the 11th and 13th drew him level before he bogeyed the 16th.
Scott had already won the Australian PGA and Australian Masters on his first trip back home since winning the Masters at Augusta in April.
He will now try to complete the Australian “Triple Crown” next week at Royal Sydney. “It’s been an incredible day,” Scott said. “Thanks Jason, you played so well this week.”
The last time the World Cup was captured by the host country was in 1996, when the South African team of Ernie Els and Wayne Westner won in Cape Town.
Australia finished the team component at 17-under-par, ten strokes better than the American team of Kuchar and Kevin Streelman, who finished with a 74 yesterday and was tied for eighth in the individual competition. Denmark and Japan finished equal third on 5- under-par in the team event.