Source: SIPA USA/PA Images
Updated at 08.28
TIGER WOODS HAD taken his bow and left the stage when fierce drama unfolded Sunday at Torrey Pines, with Alex Noren and Jason Day locked in a playoff duel as darkness fell.
The spotlight had been all on Woods as the 14-time major champion wrapped up his first US PGA Tour tournament in a year with an even par 72 for a 72-hole total of 285.
That was good enough for a promising tie for 23rd as Woods launched his latest bid to return to form in the wake of spinal fusion surgery last April.
Woods was never in sight of the 10-under par total of 278 that sent Australia’s Day, Sweden’s Noren and American Ryan Palmer into sudden death.
Palmer was eliminated with a par at the first playoff hole, the par-five 18th, where Noren’s third shot into the green spun back toward the pin to leave him a tap-in birdie and Day drained a tough, downhill eight-footer.
The remaining duo returned to 18 and birdied again — both reaching the green in two.
After pars at the par-three 16th, the fourth playoff hole took them to the par-four 17th, where both Day and Noren were in a fairway bunker off the tee.
Both reached the green from there and both two-putted for par, Day’s birdie effort stopping only inches short.
The light was fading as they returned to 18, where Day was in a fairway bunker and Noren in the first cut of rough just off the fairway.
Noren reached the green in two, leaving himself some 40 feet. Day laid up and stuck his third shot five feet from the pin.
Noren rolled his eagle attempt five feet past, and after Day drained his birdie Noren rolled in his.
“I couldn’t even see the flag, really,” Day said of his third shot. “You could barely see the yellow. And it’s starting to get cool so I didn’t really know how hard to hit it.
“So I just got up and just kind of saw the yellow (flag) a bit and just hit it.”
Noren wasn’t sorry to see play halted, even with no decision.
“I could barely see the last putt,” he said. “It’s better this way than maybe missing a short one when you can’t see.”
Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner, is seeking his first title since the 2016 Players Championship.
Noren, ranked 19th in the world and a nine-time winner on the European Tour, is in search of his first US tour title.
- Tremendous golf -
The Swede held a one-shot overnight lead. He had three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, but couldn’t come up with any birdies to counter two bogeys coming in and closed with a one-over 73.
Day’s four birdies were all on the front nine. He made two bogeys coming in and after a par at the last hole of regulation could only wait to see if it would be good enough on a day when as many as four players shared the lead at one point.
Palmer birdied the last hole of regulation to complete a 72 and get into the playoff.
Noren and Day were both looking forward to returning Monday to finish things off.
“This is what I play for, so I’m excited,” Noren said. It’s nerve-racking playing these extra holes, but I’m happy with the way he played and the way I played and just to get out here (Monday) again.”
Day said he didn’t care how many more holes it takes if he can end his victory drought.
“Alex is playing some tremendous golf,” Day said. “To be able to go through and go shot for shot there was pretty special.”
The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):