PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The back-nine drama that turned Rickie Fowler into a bona fide leading man at last year’s Players Championship was gone, replaced in this year’s event by Jason Day’s solidification as golf’s leading closer. The top-ranked Day posted a one-under-par 71 on Sunday at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for a 72-hole score of 15-under 273, four strokes ahead of Kevin Chappell, who carded a final-round 69.

With the victory, Day recorded his — and the PGA Tour’s — second wire-to-wire win of the 2015-16 season, matching his emphatic performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. At the postround ceremony, Fowler, who had erased a five-stroke deficit last year with a final-round 67 and then prevailed in a playoff, handed Day the crystal trophy and congratulated him on “some spectacular golf.”

Day, 28, has won three times in 2016 and seven times in his past 17 starts. He is making it look easy, but if winning from ahead were a piece of cake, the tour would have more pear-shaped players like Ken Duke (72) and Colt Knost (69), who tied for third with Matt Kuchar (68) and Justin Thomas (65) at 10 under.

In the season’s first 26 tour events, Day was one of nine players to win after sleeping on at least a share of the third-round lead. Over all, 54-hole leaders have a 34.6 percent success rate in closing out tournaments. Day is two for two this season and five for five dating to last summer’s P.G.A. Championship, which Day’s fellow Australian Adam Scott described as “Tiger-esque.”

As it happens, Day is in regular contact with Tiger Woods, the former world No. 1 who has become Day’s mentor and friend. Their relationship was built on Woods’s offering golf-related advice to Day, who has proved a quick study.

“This week he texted me and said, ‘Just stay in your world, and it’s a marathon,’ ” Day said, adding, “Just little things like that that obviously stick with me and keep me going.”

Day led the field in driving with a 311.6-yard average, and in scrambling, saving par 17 of the 20 times he missed the green. When Woods, who has been sidelined since August after having back surgery, returns to competition, he might want to turn the questions on Day.

One of Day’s best responses to adversity came on the par-4 No. 7. After his approach found a greenside bunker, Day hit his next shot from an awkward stance, with one foot in the sand and the other on the grassy lip. The ball stopped 15 feet from the pin, and he made the putt. Day had two bogeys on the front, on Nos. 6 and 9, but bounced back with a bogey-free, three-under 33 on the final nine. After the round, he described his six-foot bogey putt on 9 as his most critical shot of the day, because if he had missed, he would have given his challengers renewed hope.

“It’s very impressive,” Thomas said, referring to Day’s five consecutive victories while holding the 54-hole lead. Thomas would know. He slept on the third-round lead at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last fall and then held off the hard-charging Scott, a former world No. 1, for his first tour win. Thomas and Scott were paired together Sunday, and as they walked up the 18th fairway, Thomas said, they shared war stories about the difficulties of closing out a tournament.

Thomas, 23, began the day 11 strokes behind Day, and said he never considered for a nanosecond that he could post a score low enough to pull out the come-from-behind win.

“With Jason Day leading the tournament, you wouldn’t think that’s a chance,” Thomas said, adding: “It’s no coincidence he’s No. 1 in the world. I mean, he drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon so he can access pins that most people can’t. His short game is ridiculous.”

Scott, who was No. 1 for 11 weeks in 2014, played a practice round on the eve of the tournament with Day and another Australian, Marc Leishman.

“You can see there’s that calmness inside him, calm confidence, and the way he’s walking around, he’s got that kind of unbeatable look about him,” Scott said.

When Scott, 35, turned pro, he had a swing and a swagger that invited comparisons to Woods. He has had his moments, becoming the first Australian to win the Masters in 2013 and producing a torrid stretch this season in which he posted back-to-back wins and two seconds in seven starts.

But what Day is doing is something altogether different, Scott said.

“He’s managed so far to keep that momentum going, and that’s one of the hardest things to do when you are hot like that — to keep pushing,” Scott said. “But he has a very strong desire to achieve so much, and I think probably his goals are changing throughout this period, and he’s expecting more and more of himself.”

In 2014, Day acknowledged that his primary aim had once been to make loads of money. His goals have evolved. Since becoming No. 1 and staring down the two-time major winner Jordan Spieth to win his first major at the P.G.A. Championship, Day is focused on his legacy. On Saturday, Day said he dearly wanted to win this event because it would enhance his credentials for inclusion in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“The little bits of insight that I get into his whole life, I think he’s got a handle on everything,” Scott said, adding, “He’s matured as a person so much in the last four or five years, and I think that’s showing in his golf game.”

Source: www.nytimes.com