Something about the 16th hole at Torrey Pines suited
The distance seemed right. So did the pin placement, tucked into the back corner.
"It just felt good," he said. "It was just a good number for me."
That innate sense of rightness translated into two clutch shots on No. 16 — a long birdie putt near the end of regulation, then a nervy drive on the second hole of a four-man playoff.
And that was enough to give Day a hard-fought victory at the
"I'm just real proud of myself to hang in there," he said. "It was a tough week for everyone."
The finish was less appealing for the other three golfers in the playoff —
Deep rough and firm greens kept the scoring in check most of the way. Sunday brought fog and chilly winds, great for paragliders swooping along the cliffs but not so good for a dozen players who entered the final round within two strokes of one another.
"There's a lot of good players and it's hard to run away with the lead out here," said English, who started the day tied for first with Holmes. "It is such a good golf course and so hard to make birdies."
The difference between the haves and have-nots was ultimately measured by the briefest of moments.
Stallings reached the playoff by holing an eagle shot from just off the 13th green. Then Day sank that 47-foot birdie putt on his first visit to No. 16. English waited until No. 18 before making an up-and-down for birdie.
As for Holmes, he endured a roller coaster ride, struggling with three bogeys in the first six holes before rebounding on the back nine.
Needing a birdie to win on the final hole in regulation, he had a chance to reach the par-five 18th in two but — with a slight downhill lie — chose to play it safe, a decision he was asked about later.
"I thought about it," Holmes said. "If I had the same thing again, I would lay up again."
The first playoff hole included Stallings and English quickly falling by the wayside. Then Holmes stepped up to the 16th tee and blasted a six-iron over the green, off a microphone and then to the base of the television tower. His chip shot came out hot and the resulting putt did not break the way he thought it might.
"I had some chances," he said. "It just didn't work out for me."
In the end, the clutch shots belonged to Day. He salvaged par at the end of regulation after his ball came to rest mere inches from the water. He executed a delicate chip to survive the first extra hole.
Finally, after Holmes hit that overly long drive on No. 16, Day nailed a "nice, high, big draw" that came to rest less than 17 feet from the cup. A simple two-putt sealed the deal.
The victory is expected to lift Day to No. 4 in the world rankings this week. More importantly, it could help quiet some doubts about an immensely talented player who has never quite lived up to his potential.
Day talked openly about the demons that have shadowed him. There was a moment, late in the day, with the pressure mounting, when he wondered whether second place might be good enough.
The answer occurred to him seconds later.
"No, get yourself up," he recalled thinking. "We're not going to stop until we win."
A sense of confidence came over him on the No. 16 tee, a feeling that he knew just what to do.
"For some reason," he said, "it was like perfect."