ORLANDO, Fla.—Jason Day turned his fortunes at just the right time yesterday by making a 12-foot birdie putt and then saving par from just under 100 feet away in a bunker to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It was another great moment for Palmer—the 86-year-old tournament host who watched it unfold on the 18th green.
Day closed with a two-under 70 for a one-shot victory over Kevin Chappell, who looked as if he finally might win in his 150th start on the PGA Tour.
Chappell didn’t flinch the entire back nine until his tee shot was buried in deep rough on the 18th, forcing him to lay up.
He hit wedge to 25 feet and was ready to putt when he heard the big roar as Day made birdie on the 17th to tie for the lead.
“Being honest, kind of had me rattled a little bit,” Chappell admitted.
He left his par putt well short and made bogey for a 69.
The closing hole at Bay Hill was just as tough for Day.
With a one-shot lead after Chappell made bogey, Day took water out of play from the right rough and went well left of the green into a bunker—95 feet away with water on the other side of the green.
But Day blasted out to four feet and made the par for his first victory of the year.
He moves to No. 2 in the world and will have a chance to overtake Jordan Spieth this week in the Dell Match Play.
“It means the world,” Day said of winning Palmer’s tournament.
“I just ground it out,” he added. “I got it done when I wasn’t quite on.”
David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. was the top Canadian, finishing 10 strokes back in a tie for 20th.
Four players had at least a share of the lead on the back nine. Day was the last man standing.
Troy Merritt, four shots behind when he made the turn, ran off five-straight birdies to catch the leaders, then chipped in for par on the 17th to keep his hopes alive.
But his approach on the 18th went into the water and he made double-bogey for a closing 71.
Merritt tied for third with Henrik Stenson, who was tied for the lead until failing to save par on the 14th and then finding the water for bogey on the 16th.
He also shot 71.
Day finished at 17-under 271.
Chappell was sick all week after catching a bug from his young son.
But he took the lead yesterday with a two-putt birdie on the par-five 16th, then hit a tough bunker shot close on the 17th to save par.
The shot that cost him was his tee shot on the 18th, and the lie was so atrocious that the only question was where to lay up.
“I had a chance to win, and that’s all I can ask for,” Chappell said after his fourth runner-up finish on the PGA Tour and second this season.
Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, ended a wild week with his sixth double-bogey—the most he’s ever made in a PGA Tour event—along with two eagles and five birdies for a 65.
He shot a 67 on Friday to make the cut. It was the 75s in the other two rounds that held him back.
“Pretty much every week there’s a lot of good golf in there, which you’ve seen on Friday and today [Sunday],” McIlroy said.
“I’m just making a lot of mistakes.”
Adam Scott, coming off two-straight PGA Tour victories, played the 18th hole in five-over on the weekend.
He made double-bogey there yesterday and still shot a 69.