If Jason Day’s WGC Dell Match Play contest with Rory McIlroy is a taste of what is to come in the Masters then golf fans are in for a treat at the year’s first Major in Augusta next week.
Rory was more than a little unlucky to lose a great semi-final on Sunday, which swung in Day’s favour around the turn. McIlroy could have gone two ahead but didn’t, and Day took full advantage to win 1 up.
The Australian is a very tough man to beat. Rory was the defending champion, relishes the mano-a-mano nature of match play, and is no pushover himself. It’s a shame they had to meet before the final.
All credit to Day, though. He was magnificent from round one right through the to the final, where he beat South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen to claim a special win and return to No1 in the world rankings.
It had looked dodgy for him earlier in the week, when he was struggling with back spasms. Oosthuizen, too, played beautifully all week but just came up against a sledgehammer in Day.
I don’t agree with those critics who claim that his play is too slow. It’s true that he is very deliberate in his routine, but he is quick once he gets behind the ball.
In fair conditions Day is the best in the world, and with consecutive wins under his belt as he heads into the Masters, his form could not be in better shape.
Making the Masters a third win from three events might sound daunting, but there is no way Day can be anything other than positive about landing successive titles.
I’d make Day joint favourite for the Green Jacket with McIlroy, who has just enjoyed his best week yet of what has been a winless but steadily improving 2016 campaign.
The four-time Major winner, who is looking to complete a career grand slam in Augusta, showed a lot of class and turned it on when he had to, notably in the earlier rounds.
Rory may not currently have Day’s Midas touch, but while some may wonder if the US PGA winner has peaked too early, McIlroy’s gradual rediscovering of his best form could, by contrast, be timed to perfection.
Current Masters champion Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, continues to look a bit raggedy. He did not play well at all as he fell in the last 16 to Oosthuizen, who was different class.
Spieth is among those playing this week at the Houston Open in his native Texas. It’s the same preparation that worked for him last year, and routine is very important for players.
Congratulations, though, to Rafa Cabrera-Bello, whose run to the semi-finals lifted him into the world’s top 50 and ensured that he will play the Masters for the first time. The Spaniard is a beautiful player.
A final well done to Ian Poulter, who tied for third at the Puerto Rico Open. It was a nice sign of form from the Englishman, who many would want to see in the Ryder Cup team later this year.