Jason Day set himself up for the fall. In the end, his finish to the Emirates Australian Open was emblematic of his winless 2017 – his first since 2012 – a little faltering, and slightly error-prone.
Day began the final round today with a one-shot lead but fell away to be virtually out of contention through the 13th hole. An eagle at the par-five 14th reignited his chances, but he ultimately carded at two-over par 73 to finish fifth on his return to the national championship became Cameron Davis, the Sydney phenomenon.
A double bogey six at he par-four ninth hole, when he had a disagreement with his caddie Luke Reardon over club selection and his second shot from a fairway bunker caught the lip of the trap, virtually sunk him.
Day just played poorly, hitting six fairways and just seven greens on a day when he felt that any score in the 60s would have won it for him.
“It was tough, yes, but there were plenty of scores in the 60s,’’ he said. “I just didn’t play my best and obviously it’s not great to shoot two-over par on the final round when you’ve got the lead. You know what, it is what it is. Cameron came back and played a wonderful round of golf today to win the tournament, so he’s obviously got a lot to look forward to next year, getting into the Open Championship and all that stuff as well. ‘’
Day now heads back to the United States knowing only too well that he has not won a tournament anywhere since The Players in May, 2016.
“It’s obviously a little bit disappointing to come out and not finish it, but I’ve just got to kind of look back on it and see what I need to do for next time, because you can’t be perfect all the time and I played three terrific rounds actually, the first three rounds, and I just didn’t put it together on Sunday.
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“I obviously would have loved to win over there, but I just didn’t quite have everything clicking. Had everything clicking the first three days here and then today was just a little bit off. So, just haven’t quite put it together this whole year and looking forward to getting some time off and trying to decompress a little bit and not even think about golf, because this whole year I’ve been kind of stressing about how I can get better and better and better.
“And unfortunately when you worry about playing good, sometimes you can actually worry about it too much and force of habit a little bit and actually not end up playing good at all.’’
Of course, he was not the only player who left with a stench in his gills. Sweden’s Jonas Blixt made a great run on the back nine before inexplicably leaving a birdie putt from four metres short of the cup when it would have put him in a playoff. “Quite a simple putt, maybe a little longer than I wanted it, but it was just a bad bunker shot, went out a little too much to the left and I thought it was a lot quicker than it was,’’ said Blixt, who ended up tied for second with Matt Jones, who virtually killed his hopes with four bogeys in the first six holes before rallying so that, had he holed his eagle putt from long range at the 72nd hole, he would have reached a playoff.
Queenslander Cameron Smith was in the mix for the second year in a row, having lost a playoff to Jordan Spieth last year, took a share of the lead early on the back nine, but faded, ultimately short-siding himself at the par-three 15th hole, taking bogey, and finishing fourth. His summation was perfect. “A bit of a pain in the arse,’’ he said.
The other one was Lucas Herbert, the Victorian who played in the last group with Day, looked the winner when he made four birdies in the first seven holes, leading the tournament by two shots. But he staggered through the back nine in 40 to shoot two-over 73 and finish tied-sixth. For a day that promised so much, it was a bitter end.
“You know what, I’m not that bad,’’ he said. “I probably got fairly tired there towards the end, which was a struggle and I sort of had a bit of a funny feeling in the stomach there later in the round. But I was really proud of the way I held it out and I guess didn’t throw it in. ‘’