Day ends 1,835-day winless drought with emotional Mother’s Day triumph
McKINNEY, Texas — Jason Day didn’t make the Mother’s Day connection until he saw his late mom’s name on the back of his caddie’s bib on the first green during the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
That was just one more reason for the emotions to flow over the Australian’s first victory in five years.
Day shot 9-under 62 for a one-shot victory over Austin Eckroat and Si Woo Kim on Sunday, ending a drought-plagued by health issues that overlapped with Dening Day’s long battle with lung cancer before her death a little more than a year ago.
“It was very emotional to go through and to experience what she was going through, then I had injuries on top of all of that going on in my life,” Day said. “It feels strange to be sitting here.”
Day, winless in 105 starts since the 2018 Wells Fargo, took his first outright lead from a large group of contenders when he broke a tie at 20 under with hometown favorite Scottie Scheffler with a chip-in for birdie at the par-4 12th.
It was the second-toughest hole of the week after being converted from a par-5 from the first two years the Nelson was held at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Day finished 23 under while ending his victory drought the week before the PGA Championship. The only major among the 35-year-old’s 13 wins was the 2015 PGA.
Day’s first career PGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Nelson, and the victories kept coming until issues his back and vertigo had him on the verge of leaving the game in recent years.
“To be on the other side of it, be healthy, feeling good about my game, finally winning again,” Day said. “No better feeling, really.”
C.T. Pan finished at 21-under 263 with two eagles on the back nine in a career-low 62, driving the green on the par-4 14th and making a 24-foot putt. His eagle at the par-5 18th got him within a shot of Day.
Scheffler finished at 20 under with a final-round 65 after a par on 18, where a day earlier his second shot hit the lip of a fairway bunker and stayed in it on the way to a bogey.
The 2022 Masters winner was playing for the first time in a month coming off this year’s Masters and the RBC Heritage. He had the hometown spotlight to himself after three-time major winner Jordan Spieth withdrew because of a wrist injury.
“I feel like I played solid,” Scheffler said. “The things that I wanted to improve on over the last three weeks, I feel like I did a good job. I didn’t swing it my best this weekend, but I’m sure that’ll be an easy fix going into next week.”
Ryan Palmer, the 46-year-old Texan who lives not far from Craig Ranch, shot 68 and finished four strokes back while trying to become the oldest PGA Tour winner since Phil Mickelson won the 2021 PGA at 50.
With the heaviest rain coming down near the end of an off-and-on rainy final round, Day put his approach at 18 inside 3 feet. Kim’s short birdie putt forced Day to make his easy tap-in before he greeted his kids and wife, who is expecting their fifth child.
Kim, who shot 63 and was 22 under with Eckroat, was trying to make it four consecutive South Korean winners at the Nelson. Two-time defending champion K.H. Lee finished 11 under after a 67, his best round of the week.
Sung Kang was the 2019 winner. The Nelson was canceled because of the pandemic in 2020.