Move over, Jordan Spieth. We have a new king.
One week after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Jason Day went undefeated at the WGC-Dell Match Play to take home his second straight PGA Tour title. He defeated big names in tough matches and delivered some high quality shots over the course of five days.
All while nursing a sore back.
Day, who didn't play a practice round on Tuesday and injured his back during his first match of the week on Wednesday, was told by several members of his inner circle that he should withdraw from the tournament in order to heal up and focus on the Masters. They did not want Day to risk further injury, but he decided to gut it out anyway.
“I’m glad I didn’t listen,” Day said with a smile on Sunday. “It was a very, very strange week,” Day said. “But I’m glad to gut it out and get the win.”
The victory is Day's sixth in 13 starts worldwide, the most by anyone in that span. It's also Day's 9th PGA Tour title, eighth in the last two years, and his second Match Play title after winning in 2014, ending his four year winless streak at the time. The victory vaults Jason Day past Jordan Spieth as the number one player in the Official World Golf Rankings, the second time in his career he has held the honor.
Day's path to the championship was filled with big name players. In the group stage, he was paired against major champion Graeme McDowell and veterans Thongchai Jaidee and Paul Casey. After steam rolling through the group stage, he defeated hot handed Brandt Snedeker and up and comer Brooks Koepka by similar 5&3 margins. He then got paired against Rory McIlroy in the semifinals, and after a back and forth battle, Day defeated McIlroy on the final hole. That set him up for a championship showdown with Louis Oosthuizen, whom he dispatched 5&4.
Day now enters the Masters in two weeks time as the hottest golfer on the planet. He has a strong history at Augusta National - he's made the weekend four times in five years, and has two top 5 finishes. It would be easy to declare Day as the favorite to win the green jacket, but with recent Masters champions Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, and Bubba Watson among the recent winners on the PGA Tour, it's hard to count anyone out of the tournament.
Rafa's Big Week
With the large amount of big name players in the field, very few people expected Rafa Cabrera-Bello to be playing on Sunday. And yet, there he was, after a series of upsets, entering the final day of the tournament with his eyes on the championship.
After moving on past the group stage against Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Kisner, and Soren Kjeldsen, Rafa faced off against two former US Amateur Champions, Byeong-Hun An and Ryan Moore, and moved past them both. That moved Rafa into the semi-finals, and set up a match against Louis Oosthuizen. More importantly, however, it guaranteed Rafa a spot in The Masters.
"I'm playing really good, and every day is adding on the confidence," said Cabrera-Bello, according to Sky Sports. "I think I've improved and grown as a player, and I consider myself stronger mentally as well. This week I'm really enjoying myself out here."
Rafa lost to Oosthuizen in the semi-finals, but he took down former World Number One Rory McIlroy in the consolation match to finish in 3rd place. The week gives Rafa a huge boost in the Official World Golf Rankings, and it puts him on the list of potential European Ryder Cup members, a position he'd love to lock up with a big week at Augusta National.