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Brand new Day: Queensland golf star almost quit, ends painful five-year drought


Jason Day has revealed he almost quit golf before breaking a five-year PGA Tour title drought with an emotion-charged Mother’s Day triumph at the $US9.5 million ($A14.3m) AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in Texas.

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A year after losing his mum Dening to cancer and tumbling outside the top 100, Day out-duelled world No.2 Scottie Scheffler, then fended off raft of other challengers in a tense Sunday shootout at TPC Craig Ranch.

After seeing off Scheffler, Day signed for a brilliant bogey-free final-round nine-under-par 62 to secure a steely one-shot win over Si Woo Kim (63) and American Austin Ekroat (65).

Kim’s Korean countryman CT Pan (62) was fourth at 21 under, with Scheffler (65) ultimately finishing fifth three shots back after being unable to stay with Day down the stretch.

Day’s compatriot Minjee Lee has lost the LPGA Tour’s Cognizant Founders Cup in a sudden-death playoff to fall painfully short of completing a golden Australian golf double in the US.

Lee relinquished a two-shot advantage with three holes to play, then three-putted the first extra hole as former world No.1 Jin Young Ko rallied for a thrilling third victory at the event.

And former world No.1 Dustin Johnson has overcome a triple bogey to force a playoff and then win LIV Golf Tulsa for his first victory of the year, beating out another Queenslander, Cameron Smith, in a playoff.

Johnson birdied the 18th in regulation play, then again on the first extra hole to deny Australia’s reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith and South African Branden Grace on Sunday.

Kim birdied the last to briefly join Day atop the leaderboard but the Queenslander held his nerve to respond and deliver his wife Ellie – greenside and heavily pregnant with the couple’s fifth child – her own priceless Mother’s Day gift.

In a poignant tribute, Day’s caddy sported a bib with his mother’s birth name “Adenil” and the inspired former world No.1 honoured her memory in style with his first tournament win since the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.

“This was the first one (Mother’s Day) kind of without her so to have her on my caddy bib was special,” Day said.

“And then obviously Ellie, the amount of sacrifices she’s made for me and my career, I just can’t thank her enough.”

In a huge confidence booster ahead of next week’s US PGA Championship, the season’s second major in New York, Day finished at 23 under and had only three bogeys for the week.

Fittingly, the 35-year-old ended his barren run at the same tournament where he clinched his maiden PGA Tour win in 2010.

But his 13th triumph is even more significant and completed Day’s tumultuous journey back from heartache and despair.

He was languishing at 175th in the world last September before rebuilding his swing to combat the debilitating back injury that threatened to prematurely end a once-great career.

But the 2016 PGA Championship winner’s resilience is now paying off, with Day among the hottest players on the planet once again.

He posted six top-10 finishes this year and eight consecutive top-20s before an untimely bout of vertigo ruined his Masters’ chances.

As well as the trophy, he pocketed a cheque for $US1.7 million ($A2.6m) after snapping his 1835-day title drought.

“It’s been a struggling few years so to be able to get the win the way I played today was really special,” Day said.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries with my back and for a moment there I thought I wasn’t going to play again and then just trying to get through those two years and just trying to get through a tournament was difficult.

“So to be on the other side of it, being healthy, feeling good about my game, finally winning again, there’s no better feeling really.”

Day and Scheffler both started the round two shots behind co-leaders Ryan Palmer, Eckroat and China-born Dallas local Zecheng Dou, who moved clear early on Sunday.

But the cream rose to the top after Dou opened the door with a double-bogey on eighth hole.

Day and Scheffler picked up four shots each to enter the back nine joint top at 18 under, with 22 players within three shots of the lead.

After cruelling hitting the hole with his approach on the 11th and darting off the green, Day had the golfing gods on his side when he chipped in for birdie at the next to claim the solo lead for the first time.

He was never headed.

Compatriot Adam Scott enjoyed the clubhouse at 19 under following an eight-birdie final-round 63 before eventually settling for equal seventh.

Aaron Baddeley (68) tied for 23rd at 15 under, while David Micheluzzi (70) finished at nine under in a respectable share of 67th on his PGA Tour debut.

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