Backspin: Former phenom Day shines anew

Backspin: Former phenom Day shines anew

"We've played a bunch of times, and he's gotten better," Woods said of Manning. "You can see he's been playing all summer, actually all winter. Now it's time for him to start focusing on football."
Chuck Burton/AP

Yes, Michael Bradley, an unassuming 42-year-old with two other Tour wins (1996 Buick Challenge and ’98 Doral-Ryder Open) birdied the 72nd hole to win the Puerto Rico Open with a 14-under 274. The more interesting story was whom he beat. As the rest of the world was catching Rory McIlroy fever — which causes the sufferer to fawn over the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland, who finished 20th at Doral — 21-year-old Jason Day of Australia almost won at Trump International Golf Club in Puerto Rico.

For those who have forgotten, Day is the Tour sophomore who arrived last year with dreams of one day being the best in the world and no shortage of accolades raining down on his game. His resume included a scorching ’07 season, during which he became the youngest winner in Nationwide tour history while finishing sixth in driving distance (306.8 yards) and ninth in putting average. He struggled a bit during his first year on Tour but had two top 10s and earned $767,393, which put him 136th on the money list and gave him partial status this year.

His tie for second last week automatically put him into this week’s Transitions Championship. It’s too soon to say that Day is ready to make a move up the Tour ranks, but he’s still young and only getting better. A few more high finishes and he could take the “everyone’s darling” title back from McIlroy. Some day the two might battle for something even more interesting: the No. 1 World Ranking …. Manuel Villegas, Camilo’s 25-year-old brother, finished 44th in Puerto Rico in his Tour debut. He shot a three-under 285, while Camilo, 27, shot a 13-under 275 to tie for fifth at Doral.

With his win at the CA Championship, Phil Mickelson leapfrogged Sergio Garcia to become No. 2 in the World Ranking, but how close is he to catching Tiger Woods for the top spot? After missing 8 1/2 months, Woods has seen his ranking points fall to 9.14, while Mickelson’s score is now 8.62. Tiger is expected to play next week at Bay Hill, but Phil won’t tee it up again until the Shell Houston Open, the week before the Masters. According to the guys who run the ranking, if Woods finishes outside the top two at Bay Hill and Phil wins in Houston, then Mickelson will go to Augusta as the No. 1 player in the world.

Going into the final round of the AT&T Champions Classic five shots down, Dan Forsman didn’t think he had much chance to win, but he should have studied his history. The AT&T has been held 20 times, and on 15 occasions it has been decided by one stroke or in a playoff, and in four of the last five years someone has charged from three or more shots back on the final day to win. It seems less than surprising then that Forsman shot a final-round, six-under 66 at Valencia (Calif.) Country Club to get into a playoff with Dan Pooley (11-under 205), which Forsman won with a birdie on the first hole. The win was the 50-year-old Forsman’s in 12 senior starts and the continuation of a trend at the AT&T.±