CHARLOTTE, NC – MAY 06: Jason Day of Australia reacts following his par putt on the 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 6, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
If you haven’t noticed by now, Jason Day tends to play his best golf on some of the toughest venues on tour, having earned hard-fought victories at courses like Torrey Pines and TPC Sawgrass. So it’s no surprise that Day rose to the occasion at Quail Hollow Club this week, carding four straight rounds in the 60s, including Sunday’s two-under 69, to claim a two-stroke win at the Wells Fargo Championship.
After extending his lead at the par-4 second with a birdie, it felt like Day might cruise to his second win this season, but that was hardly what transpired the rest of the round. The Aussie made back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth holes before getting those shots back with birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth. A birdie at the 10th got him to 12 under, but things nearly turned disastrous a few holes later, when Day bogeyed the 13th and then badly hooked his drive into the water at the 14th. He was able to save a bogey, but found himself tied with PGA Tour rookie Aaron Wise as he made his way to Quail Hollow’s “green mile.”
There, Day slammed the door shut for his 12th career win, making birdie at No. 16 and then nearly holing his tee shot at the par-3 17th, the ball hitting the pin. A kick-in birdie there and a par at the 18th made him the fourth multiple winners on tour this season.
“I had no idea where the ball was going today, especially off the tee,” Day said. “I missed a lot of fairways, missed a lot of greens. My short game stood the test, which was nice. This was probably one of the best wins I’ve ever had just because of how hard everything was today.”
Day hit just six fairways and only eight greens in regulation on Sunday but was still able to pull it out thanks to his incredible putting and short game. For the week, he ranked first in putts per green in regulation, second in scrambling, second in strokes-gained/putting and fourth in strokes-gained/around-the-green. If he can get everything else in order, he’ll surely be a factor at next week’s Players Championship, where he won in 2016.
“I’d like to be able to hit it a little bit straighter,” he said. “To be honest, what I did today was a bit out of the ballpark off the tee. I need to do a lot of work if I want to try and win next week, but I’m obviously coming off a nice win here. I’m confident about my abilities going into next week, but I got to just enjoy tonight, have fun, but really got to focus on next week after tonight.”
Wise, a 21-year-old rookie, impressed with a final-round 68 that featured just one bogey. The former NCAA champion played the back nine in two-under 34, including four straight pars to finish his round and give himself at least a chance at a playoff.
“Really, really proud,” said Wise. “You know, 16, 17 and 18 coming in there such hard holes and I had so much adrenaline going, though I legitimately had a chance to win. On 16 green I was tied with Jason, so it was pretty cool to pull some shots off and play those holes even par and to show myself how much I can do under that kind of pressure.”
The T-2 finish, which came in just his 25th career start, is his best this season, and it comes after back-to-back missed cuts at the Valero Texas Open and Zurich Classic.
Also at 10 under was Nick Watney, who dropped a 58-foot bomb for birdie at the 72nd hole to post a final-round 69 and earn his highest finish since a solo second at the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Watney, a five-time winner on tour, is finally fully healthy and looking to get back to his winning ways, with his last victory coming at the 2012 Barclays at Bethpage Black.
Bryson DeChambeau finished in solo fourth at eight-under 276, while Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey and Peter Uihlein tied for fifth at seven-under 277.