WGC Match Play: Jason Day defeats Victor Dubuisson in thrilling final
Australia's Jason Day held his nerve to win the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday after Victor Dubuisson threatened to pull off a truly astounding victory at Dove Mountain.
Day finally prevailed on the 23rd hole of an epic final that saw Dubuisson produce two extraordinary recovery shots to keep the contest alive.
Dubuisson conceded the first two holes of the final to Day and although he got back on level terms by the fourth, the Frenchman bogeyed four of the next five to fall three down at the turn.
The gap was still three with just six holes remaining only for Dubuisson to reduce his deficit with a birdie on the 13th and then keep the match alive with another on the 17th after Day had missed his birdie attempt to seal victory.
And when Day three-putted the 18th from 65 feet, Dubuisson saved par from a greenside bunker to keep his hopes alive of winning a WGC title at his first attempt.
The real drama was yet to come as Dubuisson seemingly wasted all his hard work when his approach to the first extra hole bounded through the green and came to rest in a seemingly unplayable lie underneath a cactus.
However, the 23-year-old somehow conjured a pitch onto the green and to within four feet of the hole, from where he holed for par after Day had saved his from a greenside bunker.
Day showed little emotion at Dubuisson's remarkable escape, but the 26-year-old was left smiling and shaking his head in disbelief as his opponent repeated the trick on the second play-off hole.
After pulling his approach to the par-four ninth into more desert bushes, Dubuisson casually pitched out and calmly holed from seven feet for par after Day had missed his birdie attempt.
US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson wrote on Twitter: "Two of the greatest up-and/downs I have ever seen Victor!!!" and Gary Player added: "This is simply fantastic stuff!! @Vdubush is Houdini."
The next two holes were halved before Day finally sealed victory with a birdie on the fifth extra hole after an excellent pitch to three feet.
Dubuisson had the consolation of taking £545,000 for second place which, coupled with his earnings for winning the Turkish Airlines Open last season, means he is set for a Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in September.
European captain Paul McGinley told Sky Sports: "It looks like now with the points he has accumulated he is a nail-on now.
"If he was 90 per cent before the week he is 99.9 per cent now. With all the evidence we have seen this week I think he will be a very welcome addition to the team.
"You can't help but be very impressed. A lot of us were all learning about Victor and the fortitude he has shown under pressure all week has been most impressive.
"He started the semi-final very slowly and did the same this afternoon and each time he has come back by playing himself into the match, which is a difficult thing to do when you are two or three down.
"He has hit some quality iron shots in and made birdies which gave him a little bit of momentum and then forced mistakes from his opponent."
Dubuisson, who had recovered from three down after four to beat Ernie Els on the 18th in the semi-finals, added: "I am disappointed because I made some terrible shots, I missed some shots at the end.
"Jason played very well and he made the very important putts. Any time I had a gimme birdie he made his putt. I was very impressed by his nerve."
Day, who beat Rickie Fowler 3&2 in his semi-final and will move to a career-high fourth in the world rankings on Monday, said: "Obviously I didn't want it to go this long but Vic has a lot of guts and a great short game.
"The guy (saves par) straight out of the cactus twice and for a 23-year-old kid he has a lot of game and you are going to see a lot of him for years to come.
"I think the biggest thing was how much do I want to win. I kept saying that to myself last night and visualising myself with the trophy and I am just glad I could finish it off.
"The best thing about this is that every day felt like Sunday, it's a good way to handle your nerves and understand what you are feeling under the pump.
"We played six rounds and just to know you can dig down and keep fighting and not quit until it's over, that's what it's all about. I never wanted something so bad in my life and I am definitely very pleased with it."
In the third/fourth place play-off, Els birdied the 18th to force extra holes, only for Fowler to make his own birdie on the first extra hole to take third.
Belfast Telegraph Digital