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Day Wins Match Play Championship for the Ages
In one of the most scintillating head-to-head duels in recent golf history, Australia's Jason Day managed to overcome the amazing Frenchman, young Victor Dubuisson, to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
Day finally won the marathon tournament on the 23rd hole, sinking a three-foot birdie putt and securing the winner's share of $1.53 million and 550 FedEx Cup points.
Day and Dubuisson's epic match came after they vanquished a couple of hot golfers in the morning semifinals. The 26-year-old Day got past Rickie Fowler by a 3 and 2 margin, and the 23-year-old Dubuisson squeaked by Ernie Els 1-up, the third straight such narrow margin of victory for the Cannes native.
Seemingly in control, Day enjoyed a 2-up lead on Dubuisson through 16 holes in the championship finale. But his fortunes changed on the 17th, when he missed a 20-foot putt for birdie and the 2014 Match Play title. Dubuisson made his 12-foot birdie to extend the match another hole. On the 18th, Day hit his approach long and Dubuisson put his in the left-hand-side bunker.
Playing first, Day rolled his birdie try 10 feet past the cup. Facing a tough, downhill sand shot, Dubuisson hit a brilliant blast to three feet. Day missed his winning par try, coming up a hair short, while Dubuisson made his putt to force more holes, the first time the championship went to overtime since 1999, when Jeff Maggert won in 38 holes at a time the event concluded with a 36-hole championship match.
On the 19th hole, both players found the fairway but neither hit good approaches, with Dubuisson air-mailing the green and ending up in deep rough next to a cholla cactus, and Day's finding the left-hand bunker. Dubuisson (whose name translates to "bush" in English) then hit one of the most remarkable clutch shots in years. Taking hardly any time at all, he chopped out of the deep stuff to four feet. Day then followed with a nice sand shot to six feet. Both made unlikely pars and moved on.
On the 20th hole - the par-4 ninth - both executed excellent drives. After Day hit his approach into the back fringe, Dubuisson duplicated the same shot he had hit earlier in the final match, pulling his second from 180 yards out into gnarly rough. But, for the second straight hole - with a branch over his ball this time, he smashed a Houdini-like third through the rough and onto the green, eight feet below the hole. Day's birdie try came up short, and his par was conceded. Dubuisson then sank his putt to extend the match to the 21st hole, the 494-yard par-4 10th.
Still hitting first, Dubuisson laced his drive into the first cut of rough along the right, 194 yards out, while Day found the short grass at the 188-yard mark. Dubuisson then put his approach onto a shaved area short of the green, directly below the hole, and Day - with a 9-iron - pulled his second into a wash short and left-front of the green.
From hard sand, Day splashed out to 10 feet below the cup. Facing a shot that needed to negotiate two sprinkler heads on the green's front edge, Dubuisson pitched 12 feet past. Putting first for par, the gritty Frenchman missed for a bogey. With the championship on the line, Day rolled his par try three feet past but made the comebacker to force a 22nd hole - the 14th, a 449-yard par-4.
As darkness descended on the course, Dubuisson carried the right-hand-side bunker and was in good shape. Day, also hitting a fairway wood, found the fairway as well, about 15 yards behind his opponent. Hitting first from 139 yards with a gap wedge, the Aussie placed his approach near the cup but it spun back off the green. Opting for a longer route, Dubuisson used a sand wedge from 125 yards, going past the hole. But the ball didn't spin back and settled 20 feet beyond the cup.
From a decent lie, Day chipped up but his ball stopped short for another conceded par. On his birdie try, Dubuisson's ball rolled true - for all but the final few inches - forcing yet another hole - the 23rd - the par-4 15th, making this the longest match of the week.
Dubuisson's tee ball on the driveable 335-yarder went to the right of the green and into deep rough above a collection area. Also hitting driver, Day's tee ball landed on the green but rolled off into the fringe also along the right. Facing a flop shot from a terrible, uphill lie, Dubuisson pushed his second shot 25 feet past the pin. From the fringe, Day hit a delicate, elevated chip to three feet.
Dubuisson then missed his tough cross-slope attempt, setting up Day's birdie try, which he made, winning his first hole since the ninth in regulation for the greatest victory of his career.
"A long day in the sun," Day said at greenside. "Vic, man, he has a lot of guts. He has an amazing short game - straight out of the cactus twice. For a 23-year-old, he's got a lot of game."
Added Day of the long Sunday, "I just had to believe in myself. I kept visualizing myself with the trophy last night. I never wanted to win so badly in my life . . . I had to dig down deep and keep fighting, and I'm thrilled to pull it off."
Day further tipped his cap to his gutsy opponent. "I know he was the [world's] No. 1 amateur back in 2009 . . . you're going to see a lot of him for years to come."
A tired Dubuisson said at greenside, "I'm disappointed. I made some terrible shots in the playoff. Managed to make some good up-and-downs . . . but had some bad bounces, but that's the way it goes. (Day) made some great putts."
In the consolation match, Els birdied the 18th to extend his match with Fowler, but the 25-year-old American made birdie on the first extra hole to take third place.
For complete scoring details, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/accenture-match-play-championship/leaderboard.html.