Jason Day got into golf for a simple reason.
“I came from a very poor family, so it wasn’t winning that was on my mind when I first came out on the PGA Tour,” Day said Sunday. “It was money. I wanted to play for money because I’d never had it before.”
That certainly isn’t an issue anymore.
When Day was awarded the Walter Hagen Cup on Sunday after outlasting Victor Dubuisson in 23 holes and winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, he secured a check of $1.53 million.
It catapulted him into the top-10 on the PGA Tour money list this season and more than doubled what he had earned in 2014. He also jumped seven spots to No. 4 in the world golf ranking Monday.
Day’s win and new small fortune came at the end of a week where many suggested Match Play needs a total overhaul. A new venue, a new format, a new city.
The 26-year-old Australian certainly isn’t in that group.
“I love this place here,” said Day, who improved to 11-1 the past two years at Dove Mountain. “And I think it’s a great format. I think it definitely shouldn’t go away.”
But the reality is Match Play is likely on the move. Accenture is expected to be out as the title sponsor of the event and a move to San Francisco or even South America could be in the cards.
But large galleries, Day’s dramatic win and picturesque weather on Dove Mountain all week could certainly give the PGA Tour something to think about.
“It was a wonderful week,” said Judy McDermott, the executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores. “We’re continuing to talk to the Tour and explore our options. We still haven’t been told anything official. To keep professional golf in Tucson, whether it’s Match Play, a Champions Tour event, a different PGA event or even an LPGA event is certainly a priority for the Conquistadores.
“There will be a lot of discussing with the Tour here in future months.”
A year after being plagued by cold and snowy weather, Match Play rebounded with a strong week after a slow start. When Tiger Woods announced earlier this month he’d be skipping the event, Match Play seemed to be in trouble.
Not only was Woods missing out on a trip to Dove Mountain, Phil Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott were as well.
But Woods’ announcement came just two weeks before the event and didn’t have much affect on ticket sales.
“The Conquistadores are so good at selling, we already had tickets out before Tiger said if he was coming or not,” McDermott said. “Someone like him does have an appeal and there’d probably be some more phone ringing if he was coming, but we still had a good draw.”
That was helped by minimal upsets in the first few days. Big names like Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, ex-UA star Jim
Furyk, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner and Sergio Garcia made it to Friday.
Fowler’s draw was particularly helpful for crowd sizes. The 25-year-old, who has been struggling on Tour lately, made it all the way to Sunday and finished in third place. Known for his bright orange Puma outfits, Fowler has a large following on Tour and it showed at Dove Mountain.
“He created a huge draw,” McDermott said. “It’s amazing how much the young kids like him. In a sense, someone like Rickie is the new Tiger. The kids were wearing the clothing, buying Puma gear in the merchandise tent. They definitely know who Rickie is.”
Now, whether Fowler and the rest of the field are back in Southern Arizona remains to be seen. For now, there’s no timetable on the answer.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” McDermott said. “We have to take it one day at a time. That’s all there is to it. There are a lot of moving parts. We think we had a great event this week and that’s all we can control for right now.”