He might have been the relatively forgotten fourth member of The Challenge: Japan Skins in the build-up, but Jason Day was crowned the winner of the head-to-head challenge having conquered Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama.
The quartet clashed at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba on Monday in a fanfare event forming part of the lead up to the PGA Tour’s inaugural Zozo Championship a brand new tournament which will feature a field of 78 players line-up.
While a lot of the focus prior to the Skins event had been on home favourite Matsuyama as well as Woods and McIlroy, it was Day who earned the victory and walked away with $210,000 of the $350,000 up for grabs.
Played in front an invited crowd, the four big names contested a round of the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club with at least $10,000 on offer per hole and $100,000 riding on the final hole—named the Super Skin and essentially deciding the winner.
Day won eight skins—including that 18th hole courtesy of an up and down from the bunker—during the round totalling the $210,000 with Woods and McIlroy next best with $60,000 in the bank having won five and four skins respectively. Matsuyama’s solitary win earned him $20,000.
“It was fun,” Day said. “It’s nice to be able to beat the calibre of player I did today. It was nice to be able to hole some putts coming down the stretch, hit some good shots. The short game really showed up today and that’s usually my strength of my game.”
There was no winner of the opening two holes, so Day collected three skins when he won the 3rd hole. Woods then collected two skins on the 5th hole after the fourth was not won.
With the Rugby World Cup taking place in Japan, the 7th hole was named the Rugby Challenge with all four players having a rugby player with them. Brian O’Driscoll, playing with McIlroy, sunk a 20-footer to earn a half and ensure the money rolled on to the next hole with the 6th having also been halved previously.
It was Woods who took the eighth and with it five skins, before a run of three successive halves until the 12th when McIlroy collected his four skins courtesy of a birdie. Matsuyama won the 13th for his only skin, while the halved 14th was entertaining after all four players were limited to using just one club throughout.
It was halved, as was the 15th and 16th, before Day earned four skins when winning the 17th hole. Under the floodlights on the last and with the game still at stake for all four, an up and down saw Day win the hole and the Japan Skins.
Woods said: “I did not play well at the beginning. I hit a lot of bad shots and did not putt well. Once I got into the flow of competing and feeling the round, it just got exciting. We were competitive, the banter was great, the back and forth.”
Matsuyama added: “It was very fun to be able to play with these three great players, but disappointed that I only had one skin. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week which is an exciting one for Japanese golf.”