Two 15-foot birdies over the next three holes restored his margin and sent him on his way. The last hurdle was finding land on the island-green 17th, and he cleared the water with about 10 feet to spare.
Day’s seven victories dating to the Canadian Open include the PGA Championship, The Players, a World Golf Championship and a pair of FedEx Cup events, all some of the strongest fields in golf. Day became the first wire-to-wire winner in 16 years at Sawgrass, and he joined Tiger Woods, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson as the only players to go wire-to-wire twice in the same season, dating to 1970.
Day finished at 15-under 273 and earned $1.89 million, the richest payoff in golf.
Kevin Chappell, who finished one shot behind Day at Bay Hill, was 5 under over his final 10 holes for a 69. He picked up a consolation check of $1,134,000 and moves just outside the top 30 in the world, which gives him a spot in the next two majors.
“That’s getting a little old,” Chappell said of his two runner-up finishes to Day. “I’m not sure what Jason’s scrambling stats were, but they were much better than mine on the week.”
Day got up-and-down 85 percent of the time this week, the best at Sawgrass. He now has won 10 times on the PGA Tour. Only Rory McIlroy, with 11, has won more among players in their 20s.
“It’s no coincidence he’s No. 1 in the world,” Justin Thomas said after closing with a Sunday-best 65 to tie for third. “He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can’t. His short game is ridiculous. I think I’ve pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf.”
Day is the third No. 1 player to win The Players Championship, joining Greg Norman (1994) and Woods (2001 and 2013).
Thomas, who started 11 shots behind, stuck around Sawgrass to see if 10-under 278 would have a chance. He wound up tied for third with Matt Kuchar (68), Colt Knost (69) and Ken Duke (72).
Hideki Matsuyama, playing in the final group with Day, was 3 over after three holes and quickly out of the mix.
The pressure didn’t come from anyone else. Day brought it on himself. He hit only three greens on the front nine and let evil thoughts of blowing the lead creep into his head until he steadied himself with the bogey putt on No. 9 and two birdies on the 10th and 12th holes.
In the world rankings, Day now has a large lead over Jordan Spieth, who missed the cut, and McIlroy at No. 3, who was never a factor on Sunday at Sawgrass. Dating to his 81 to miss the cut last year at The Players, Day has finished out of the top 10 only seven times in his past 20 starts.
Adam Scott referred to his run as “Tiger-esque.”
“That’s one of the hardest things to do: when you are hot like that, to keep pushing,” Scott said. “But he has a very strong desire to achieve so much, and I think probably his goals are changing throughout this period, and he’s expecting more and more of himself. He’s got that ability to push himself and accomplish.”
Toronto fans chanted, ‘We want Cleveland!’ in the final seconds. They got it.
Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, DeMar DeRozan had 28, and the Raptors beat the Miami Heat 116-89 in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
Bismack Biyombo added 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Raptors. They’ll open the Eastern Conference finals in Cleveland against LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
“It’s great to hear the home crowd,” DeRozan said. “This organization deserves it, this country deserves it — to see them get to the next step, somewhere they haven’t been. But we’re not done yet.”
Strong San Jose Sharks’ effort trumped by St. Louis Blues’ scoring depth in Game 1
ST. LOUIS — It is a matchup the St. Louis Blues will take over seven games, and this thing sure has the look of seven: Jori Lehtera’s winner Sunday night coming with the San Jose Sharks’ third line on the ice.
No offense to Chris Tierney’s unit for the Sharks, which played well the previous round against the Nashville Predators, but if the Blues can get Lehtera’s unit — with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz out there, or any of their top three lines — matched up against San Jose’s third line, this is an area St. Louis can exploit throughout the Western Conference finals.
This is a series pitting two evenly matched teams. Games will be won by a hair, the way it was Sunday with the Blues prevailing 2-1 in Game 1 and the Sharks perhaps unlucky after outshooting the hosts 32-23 and owning the larger share of Grade A looks.