KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Australia’s Jason Day held his nerve to end five years of close calls at the majors with an emotional breakthrough victory by three shots over American Jordan Spieth at the PGA Championship on Sunday.
World number five Day, two ahead of Spieth overnight, never relinquished his lead as he closed with a five-under-par 67 on a blustery afternoon of hazy sunshine at Whistling Straits to post a major record low of 20-under 268.
The previous best at a major was the 19-under total of 269 recorded by Tiger Woods when he triumphed by eight shots in the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews.
Day fended off the challenge of Spieth, who had been bidding for a rare third major victory in the same year, with four birdies in the first seven holes, followed by three more after the turn.
The 27-year-old Australian, who had previously recorded nine top-10 finishes in the majors — six of them in the top four — had to wipe tears from his eyes before he tapped in a par putt from just one feet on the 18th green.
Spieth, the Masters and U.S. Open champion, had to settle for second after closing with a 68, a finish that secures him the number one ranking for the first time at the expense of Rory McIlroy.
Day, who was embraced by his pregnant wife Ellie as he made his way off the green, became the fifth Australian to win the PGA Championship after Steve Elkington (1995), Wayne Grady (1990), David Graham (1979) and Jim Ferrier (1947).
“It’s an amazing feeling,” a visibly emotional Day told CBS Sports after being presented with the coveted Wanamaker Trophy, which he hoisted high in celebration.
“Winning the PGA Championship is very special.”
South African Branden Grace, who pulled within a shot of Day’s lead after making four birdies in five holes from the third, signed off with a 69 to place third at 15 under.
Day made a confident start to the final round when he stretched his lead to three after getting up and down from a bunker to birdie the par-five second, before picking up further shots at the fifth and sixth.
Though Spieth also birdied five and six to remain two behind, Day drained a monster 50-footer to birdie the par-three seventh, shouting out “Yes” in celebration after his ball disappeared into the cup.
Though the Australian bogeyed the eighth, after his tee shot ended in a poor lie in a bunker, he did well to salvage par at the ninth when he chunked a wedge approach from the middle of the fairway, chipped to nine feet and sank the putt.
Two ahead at the turn, Day picked up further shots at the 11th and 14th to move four strokes clear and could afford the luxury of a bogey on 15 before finishing birdie-par-par.
McIlroy, back in action this week to defend his PGA Championship crown after being sidelined with an ankle injury, signed off with a 69 to finish at nine under.
Editing by Andrew Both