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Jason Day wins PGA, but Jordan Spieth is now No. 1

SHEBOYGAN, Wis.—After coming up short so many times, it was finally Jason Day’s turn.

The golfing world was poised to see if Jordan Spieth could make history. Instead, it was Day who made history at Whistling Straits on Sunday.

Playing flawlessly beside a shimmering Lake Michigan, the 27-year-old Australian captured the 97th PGA Championship with a 20-under par score, the lowest ever posted in a major tournament. With his final-round 67, Day finished three shots ahead of Spieth (68).

It is the first major championship for Day, who had posted nine top-10 finishes in the previous 20 majors. This was the third straight major Day had led after 54 holes.

“It was probably the hardest round of golf I’ve ever had to play,’’ Day said after using past major disappointments to steel himself, rather than create doubt. “I knew today was going to be tough, but I didn’t realize how tough it was going to be. The experience I’ve had in past majors helped me prepare for a moment like this. I guess you can take me off the `best players without a major’ now. It’s good to be a major champion.’’

His eyes filled with tears, Day hugged his caddie, son and pregnant wife on the 18th green.

“I didn’t expect to cry,’’ Day said. “A lot of emotion has come out because I’ve been so close so many times in major championships and fallen short. Really close.

“To be able to play the way I did today, especially with Jordan in my group–I could tell he was the favorite–was just amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.’’

For Spieth, there was a very major consolation prize. He moved up to No. 1 in the world rankings ahead of Rory McIlroy, who finished 17th (9-under).

“It’s been a very good year,’’ Spieth said. “This is as easy a loss I’ve ever had because I felt that I not only couldn’t do much about it as the round went on. I also accomplished one of my life-long goals. I’ll always be a No. 1 player in the world.’’

Spieth said he knew it was Day’s day when the Aussie hammered a 382-yard drive on the par-five 11th hole.

“I turned to him and said, `Holy —! You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He gave me a little bicep. I knew I was going to be playing uphill from there.’’

When Day really closed the door by knocking a 50-foot putt close to assure par on No. 17, Spieth gave him a thumbs-up. And before Day putted out on No. 18, Spieth applauded his opponent.

“The kid just doesn’t go away,’’ Day said of Spieth. “It baffles me, the stuff he can do out there. It’s no wonder he’s No. 1 in the world right now. He’s going to be around for a long, long time. To be able to hold him, it felt great.’’

Day’s outstanding performance denied Spieth’s bid to become the first player to win all three of the majors contested on American soil in the same season.

Spieth still had an epic year. He not only won the Masters and U.S. Opens. He came within one shot of making the British Open playoff before battling Day at Whistling Straits.

Day’s performance is further evidence that golf is in excellent young hands as it transitions beyond its Tiger-and-Phil era.

Spieth, 22, and McIlroy, 26, lead the charge. But Day and Rickie Fowler, 26, and others aren’t far behind.

“It’s exciting for golf right now,’’ said Justin Rose, who finished fourth. “I think golf is in a great spot. Rory and Jordan obviously have been leading the way. Jason has been knocking on that majors door for a long time. I’m really happy this happened for him today.’’