A spectacular hole-out for eagle on the par-4 14th wasn’t enough to lift Jason Day to a drought-breaking win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California.
On a rare Saturday finish on the PGA Tour Day found himself in what has become an unfamiliar position of leading through 54-holes, level with American Will Zalatoris at 14-under entering the final round.
A bogey at the par-4 fifth saw him fall one back but he made the turn even par courtesy of a birdie at the par-5 ninth.
He failed to get up-and-down at the par-3 11th to drop back to 13-under but suddenly thrust himself back to the top of the leaderboard when he holed his approach from 118 yards for eagle at 14 to reach 15-under.
Unfortunately for Day – as he sought his first win since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship – he came up short at the par-3 16th and failed to get up-and-down and made a second bogey on the trot when he was unable to save par from a ‘fried egg’ lie in the front bunker.
A birdie at the final hole saw Day close with an even par 72 to finish one shot out of the playoff between Zalatoris and eventual champion Luke List but record his first top-three finish since that win almost four years ago.
“Sometimes you kind of peak a little bit too early,” Day said of the momentum swing that came from the eagle at 14.
“It was nice to be able to hole that shot out, but I knew that 15 and 16 were going to be tough.
“No. 17, if you get a good drive, you can give yourself a good opportunity at birdie, and obviously 18, being able to birdie that.
“Unfortunately I didn’t, but I was thinking if I can get through 15 and 16 I can birdie 17 and 18 and kind of put it away.
“Didn’t pan out the way that I wanted it to but there’s a lot of good stuff. I played in my first tournament in a long while without any pain so that’s a good thing.
“I know that I’m heading in the right direction and I know that the work I’ve been putting into my game is starting to pay off.
“Obviously if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be in that position.
“I’m in that stage of trying to make these things (swing changes) more concrete and then if I can do that, then I’ll be in contention lot more and then the confidence comes back.
“Then when the confidence comes back, hopefully I win five, 10 times a year.”
After a period of struggle with a lower back injury, Day has been working closely with Chris Como in refining a swing that eliminates any pain.
The 34-year-old is now in a position where if his back hurts, he knows the adjustments he must make to get his swing back on track.
“The good thing about that is I can test my swing to the point where it’s like a training aid,” Day explained.
“I have to swing it a certain way that it doesn’t hurt and if it hurts I know exactly what I’m doing. That forces me to go back to the swing thoughts and that’s kind of just covering a little bit more, get the left hip back. That’s mainly the thought process.
“But for me to be able to do it in competition, especially under the pump today and keep myself in contention, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward. I just need to tighten it up.”
Marc Leishman had five birdies in his final round of two-under 70 to finish tied for 16th with Cameron Davis (73) dropping into a tie for 56th.
Adam Scott is the best-placed Australian as the DP World Tour’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic reaches its climax on Sunday night, the Queenslander in a share of 20th position after a round of 71, the highlight of which was a chip-in for eagle at the par-5 13th.
Lucas Herbert (70) is just one back of Scott in a tie for 23rd while Kiwi Ryan Fox recorded his first hole-in-one on tour in his round of three-under 69 that has him in a share of 33rd with one round to play.
Fellow Kiwi Lydia Ko has a two-shot lead ahead of the final round of the Gainbridge LPGA event in Florida, Ko’s round of 72 on day three notable for the fact that Celine Boutier was the only player to break 70 in cold and windy weather.
Su Oh shot 78 to fall to a tie for 34th while Karrie Webb had 75 to be tied for 40th in her first LPGA Tour event in 15 months.