AUSTRALIAN Jason Day has moved to a career-high number 4 in the world after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The 26-year-old overcame losing the last two holes then seeing his opponent Victor Dubuisson produce miraculous recoveries at the first two extra holes to beat the Frenchman at the 23rd in the title showdown at Dove Mountain in Arizona.
“I think the biggest thing (I was thinking) was, just how much do I want it, how much I want to win?” said Day after securing a $1.5 million first prize and a three-year PGA Tour exemption.
“I kept visualising myself with the trophy last night. I’ve never wanted something so bad in my life.”
Three down with six holes to play, Dubuisson won the 13th and 17th with birdies and then saved par on the 18th from a greenside bunker to force extra holes after Day three-putted from 65 feet.
However, the real drama was yet to come as Dubuisson looked to have wasted all his hard work when his approach to the first extra hole bounded through the green and came to rest in a seemingly unplayable lie underneath a cactus.
Undeterred, the 23-year-old somehow conjured a pitch on to the green to within four feet of the hole, from where he holed for par after Day had saved his from a greenside bunker.
Day showed little emotion at Dubuisson’s remarkable escape, but even he was left smiling wryly and shaking his head in disbelief as his opponent repeated the trick on the next hole.
After pulling his approach to the par-4 ninth into more desert bushes, Dubuisson casually pitched out and calmly holed from seven feet for par after Day had missed his birdie attempt.
It prompted US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson to write on Twitter: “Two of the greatest up-and-downs I have ever seen Victor!!!”
The next two holes were halved before Day finally sealed victory with a birdie on the fifth extra hole.
“Obviously I didn’t want it to go this long but Vic has a lot of guts and a great short game,” added after eclipsing Tiger Woods to become the event’s youngest winner.
“The guy (saves par) straight out of the cactus twice and for a 23-year-old kid he has a lot of game and you are going to see a lot of him for years to come.”
Dubuisson had the consolation of £545,000 for second place which, coupled with his earnings for winning his maiden European Tour title in the Turkish Airlines Open last season, means he is set for a Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in September.
The former amateur world No 1 certainly impressed European captain Paul McGinley as he watched the event in the Sky Sports studio in London.
“It looks like with the points he has accumulated he is a nail-on now,” said the Irishman during commentary. “If he was 90 per cent before the week he is 99.9 per cent now. With all the evidence we have seen this week I think he will be a very welcome addition to the team.
“You can’t help but be very impressed. A lot of us were all learning about Victor and the fortitude he has shown under pressure all week has been most impressive.”
Stephen Gallacher, who lost to Ernie Els in the first round, has dropped two places to 39th, in the latest world rankings.
But, having secured an invitation for this week’s Honda Classic ahead of the second WGC event of the season starting at Doral on Thursday week, he’s expected to comfortably stay inside the top 50 before the Masters cut-off at the end of next month.