Jason Day’s playoff win in the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open ignited a run of eight victories in two years, a major championship win and the ascendancy to the top of the world golf rankings.
After some rough going over the last year, the 30-year-old Australian is hoping his latest Farmers victory in extra holes will do the same.
Day needed only 14 minutes and four shots to prevail on Monday over Sweden’s Alex Noren on the sixth hole of a playoff that was extended to an extra day by darkness on Sunday.
Attempting to win for the first time on the U.S. tour, Noren tried to reach the Torrey Pines South Course’s par-5 18th green with a 3-wood from 256 yards. The shot was nearly perfect, but the ball hit into the upslope of the bank in front of the green and trickled back into the water.
Day, who had to lay up after hitting his drive into the right rough, fired a lob wedge from 85 yards to 10 yards past the flagstick, and his ball came back to 18 inches from the cup. Day tapped in for birdie, while Noren finished with a bogey.
In all, Day made four birdies at 18 in the playoff, which was the longest by two holes in the tournament’s 50-year history at Torrey Pines.
He earned $1.24 million for his 11th tour win.
A couple hundred fans — mostly sitting in skyboxes at 18 — were on hand for the finish after tournament organizers, citing volunteer and security issues, decided to not allow the public to attend.
By the time Day was awarded his trophy for a second time in four years at Torrey Pines, there were a handful of Century Club members and Day’s wife, Ellie, and their two children there to celebrate.
“It’s special for me to be able to win here again,” said Day, who recorded his first victory since the 2016 Players Championship. “I first came over here as a junior and won the Junior World Championships, and being able to win in 2015 propelled me to a really great year.
“Obviously, the preparation and the hard work over the holidays has really paid off early, so I need to make sure I stay on top of that.”
There were numerous subplots to Day’s victory.
His caddie for the week is his friend from childhood Rika Batisbasaga, who was pulled into duty because Day’s regular caddie had visa problems.
Day was struggling with a sore back before the tournament and his prospects didn’t look good when he was 3 over on the South Course on Thursday through the first 12 holes.
Day also revealed that he had a Saturday night conversation with Tiger Woods about how to manage “momentum.”
“His piece of advice was to not make bogey,” Day recalled with a laugh, knowing full well that was a near-impossible task on Sunday, when the Santa Ana winds blew to at least 20 mph at times.
On top of all that, Day had taken a long break from competition, and was coming off a 2017 season in which he had only five top-10 finishes and saw his world ranking drop to 14th after he spent 51 weeks at No. 1.
In addition, personal turmoil dogged Day. His mother was diagnosed with lung cancer; late in the year he decided to no longer have his coach and mentor, Colin Swatton, on the bag; and Ellie Day suffered a miscarriage on Thanksgiving.
“Last year was a good kick in the butt, not really being talked about … and being talked about for the wrong reasons,” Day said. “Take my mum out of the equation. I see the guys winning – Jordan [Spieth] and Dustin [Johnson] are playing some tremendous golf. Jon Rahm’s playing some tremendous golf, and I feel like I should be there, as well, winning.
“Last year I felt mentally stressed, but also run down, burnt out,” Day said. “It was hard for me to be on the golf course. But this year my whole mind set’s different. I’m very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot, and I know that the only way to get back to the No. 1 spot is win, and that’s what I’ve just got to do.”
Day decided during last season’s FedEx Cup playoffs that he needed a change on the course. He and Swatton, who has served as his coach, mentor and caddie since he was a teenager, decided to find someone else to carry the bag.
Day began using Australian friend Luke Reardon, but Reardon has had visa issues and has been unable to join Day in the States. His next choice was David Lutterus, but he had visa problems.
He then enlisted Batisbasaga, a professional golfer whom Day said he has known since they were young kids in Australia.
“Either grab him or grab someone out of the crowd,” Day joked.
“I kind of threw him into the deep end quick,” he added.
The pair did just fine. Following Thursday’s 1-over 73 — the same score Day shot in his first round of the 2015 Farmers win — Day fired an 8-under 64 on the North Course in the second round, and shot 71 on the South on Saturday. He battled the winds to notch an impressive 70 on Sunday to get to 11-under total with Noren and Ryan Palmer.
One of the key holes was the par-3 third, where, in howling wind, Day made a 2 while watching playing partner CT Pan suffer an 8.
He also made a nervy 10 ½-foot putt for birdie on the first playoff hole to stay alive when Noren had knocked his approach to 18 inches.
On Monday morning, Day said he intentionally practiced wedge shots between 75 and 85 yards in case he had to lay up. He said he may have been fortunate to have not hit the fairway on 18, while Noren felt like he had to go for the green because he had “perfect” yardage for his 3-wood.
“I thought it was going to reach,” Noren said of his approach. “I mean, it’s tough in that first cut because it gets a little more spin than off the fairway. Tough luck.”
Tiger Wood’s presence on the weekend in the Farmers Open had a big impact on television ratings.
CBS Sports’ Sunday final-round coverage earned a 2.9 overnight ratings, up 38% from last year and the highest-rated Sunday for Farmers in five years — since the last time Woods won in 2013.
Saturday’s third-round coverage was the highest for the tournament in seven years — 2.3/5, up 53% from last year.
Among 56 metered markets, San Diego ranked No. 1, with a 7.1 rating and 17 share.