ORLANDO - Jason Day shook The King's hand and picked Tiger's brain. That's about as good as it gets at Bay Hill Club & Lodge as the No. 3 player in the world shook off some nerves and won the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard for his eighth career PGA TOUR title.
With a clutch birdie at the difficult par-3 17th followed by a sand-save par that he made easier than it looked at Bay Hill Club's arduous 18th hole, Day managed to become the fourth wire-to-wire winner in tournament history. But he did it the hard way, with a 2-under-par 70 that was a struggle to the end.
"Regardless if you win wire to wire or you win pretty or you win ugly, a win is a win," Day, 28, said after beating Kevin Chappell by a stroke for his eighth PGA Tour title. "It's a great feeling and nothing beats winning.
"It does a lot of confidence for me knowing that everyone was asking, 'What's wrong, what's going on, why aren't you playing well?' I just kept on saying to myself, kept on saying to the people, the fans, the media, 'Just be patient, I'm just going through the process and I'm going to keep working hard.' Things take time."
Day benefitted from some good advice in beating the field of 120 players. He and Woods have been trading a lot of texts lately, and the advice from the eight-time winner at Bay Hill was useful to the powerful Aussie.
"Obviously words of wisdom because he's played well here," explained Day, who moved past Rory McIlroy into the No. 2 slot in the world rankings. "But to be able to hear what he has to say and his advice and how much he believes in me really means a lot especially coming from the best. And, yeah, I just saw a text from him just as I got out. I didn't get to read it but I know he just texted me and texted me this morning saying just be good."
By finishing with a 17-under 271 aggregate total, Day became just the fourth outright wire-to-wire winner of Palmer's tournament, joining Fred Couples, Paul Azinger and Mike Nicolette. Even Woods didn't do that in his eight romps at Bay Hill, though the 2002 edition was close; he shared the first round lead before winning by four.
"I didn't know that, but I'm going to text him that," Day, 28, said with a laugh.
Day won for the fifth time in his last 12 PGA Tour starts, but for the first time since September's win at the BMW Championship, when he coasted home after a 63-61 start. No. 3 in the world coming in, Day lacked sharpness on the easiest scoring day of the tournament, letting not only Chappell, who had a 69, into the picture, but also Troy Merritt, making his first start at Bay Hill, and world No. 7 Henrik Stenson, who was hungry after a runner-up finish last year. Each of them had a share of the lead on the back nine, but it came down to Day and Chappell, and Day dug deep to finish like a former world No. 1, a station he achieved briefly last year when he dominated the PGA Championship as part of four wins in six starts.
"It's obviously those things one of many why he's been the No. 1 player in the world, why I'm the 150th player in the world," said Chappell, who played exceedingly well despite a sinus infection. "You just can't bogey the last when you're in contention, and hats off to Jason. He played well, real clutch down the stretch."
Clutch indeed. Trailing Chappell by one, he laced a 5-iron to 12 feet and converted just the eighth birdie of the round at 17. Then came his grind-it-out par at 18 that earned him a congratulatory handshake from Palmer. That was priceless, to say the least.