If there was ever any doubt as to whether Austin — and specifically Austin Country Club — could host a PGA Tour event, it has been squashed.
The World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play was a roaring success. Sold out crowds lined the fairways and greens each day at Austin Country Club, all to see the top 64 golfers in the world.
But it was Australian Jason Day who stole the show. By Sunday afternoon it was evident — there was nothing that could stop Day, who defeated 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, five and four, in the championship match.
Not even a tweaked back on Wednesday in his first match against 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell could stop Day, which left the Aussie walking off the 16th green in immense pain after gutting out a three and two victory. Day spent much of his time in therapy between rounds and said he had four people in his inner circle try and talk him out of finishing the tournament.
“I wanted to win. I just want to win,” said Day, who’s now won six of his last 13 starts. “I wanted to win so bad that I felt with how I was playing, if I kept playing the way I was doing, I would be holding the trophy at the end of the week and that’s what kept me going.”
Not even a complete lack of course knowledge phased Day; he had never played Austin Country Club prior to arriving and did not play any practice rounds early in the week. Not even four-time major winner and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy could knock off Day, who beat McIlroy in the semifinals Sunday morning on the 18th hole.
And not even the red hot Oosthuizen, who took down Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and dark horse Rafael Cabrera-Bello before the loss in the final match, could keep Day from hoisting his second Match Play trophy.
Plain and simple, Day was unstoppable and unphased by any tribulations. He seems to be a heavy favorite at The Masters, which kicks off in 10 days.
But the Aussie said he “really enjoyed” his experience in Austin.
“Playing in Austin, being in Austin for the first time, it was great,” Day said. “I mean, the fans were fantastic. They were very respectful out there, and I think they were very happy to have the game of golf and professional golf in the city. And I’ve enjoyed playing in front of them.”
Day’s strong play was not the only storyline to come out of the Dell Match Play.
Jordan Spieth returned to the city in which he played his college golf, having helped guide the Longhorns to a national championship in 2012. Huge crowds were on hand to cheer on the two-time major champion. You would’ve thought Elvis had come to town.
Kids, and even some adults, ran as fast as they could to catch a glimpse of the 22-year-old phenom. Spieth was serenaded occasionally on Friday with shouts of “Texas! Fight!” On the back nine — where Lake Austin is the backdrop for a number of holes — of Friday’s round, a large party boat was docked near the par 4 13th hole displaying a big sign that read “Jordan River.” And if you had a dollar for the number of times “Let’s go, Jordan” was shouted, well, you just might be able to become a member at Austin Country Club for the small price of $100,000.
Spieth ran through his group play matches with ease Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, never trailing at any point in all three contests. He handled Jamie Donaldson on Wednesday, winning three and two. Then he overwhelmed Victor Dubuisson on Thursday with a five and four victory. And on Friday, Spieth took out his good friend Justin Thomas, three and two, to advance to the weekend bracket.
But a troubling match against Oosthuizen on Saturday morning in the Round of 16 left Spieth with a four and two defeat and bewildered from what went wrong.
“I was off from when I hit my first 10 shots on the range,” Spieth said after the match. “I’m not exactly sure what happened.”
After he pulled his third shot from the left rough on the par 5 sixth hole during the match, leaving him with a longer putt on the green than what he expected, Spieth turned to his caddie Michael Greller and said disgruntledly, “I’ve just got no control right now.”
The off day from Spieth on Saturday cost him the world No. 1 ranking, falling back into the possession of Day. Despite the disappointing finish in Austin, however, Spieth is shifting his focus forward as he gears up to defend his green jacket at The Masters.
“From Tuesday to now I feel much more confident than I did about Augusta,” Spieth said on Saturday. “I played very, very solid the last few days and most importantly I made a lot of birdies, and something I haven’t been doing as of late is capitalizing when I do hit those good wedges or iron shots in.”