MGM Resorts The Challenge Japan Skins: Jason Day defeats Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama to win by three skins and $150,000 with final hole birdie
The Skins game returned on Sunday in Japan as Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Mastuyama battled it out over 18 holes for a total prize money of $350,000 ahead of this week's inaugural ZOZO Championship.
It went down to the wire under the lights as Jason Day triumphed after clinching the title with eight skins and $180,000 over the final two holes - including the super-skin worth $100,000 with a birdie at the 18th.
The 12-time PGA Tour winner had entered the final hole with 7 skins ($110,000) and led the way by $50,000 over Woods (5 skins) and McIlroy (4 skins), while Matsuyama was $90,000 behind on $20,000 (1 skin).
With the super skin of $100,000 on the line it was still anyone's game, but Day made an up and down birdie, and noone else was able to match him.
"It was fun. It's nice to be able to beat the caliber of player I did today," Day said after his win.
"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.
"This is the first time for me playing in a skins event and I couldn't think of three better players to play with than Rory, Hideki and Tiger. I had a lot of fun out there today."
Woods finished tied 2nd with McIlroy on $60,000, and had positive things to say about the format despite a bad start.
“I did not play well at the beginning," Woods said, making his first start since undergoing surgery on his left knee. "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 in fourth on $20,000.
“It was very fun to be able to play with these three great players, but disappointed that I only had one skin," he said through a translator.
• Winner: Jason Day (8 skins) - $210k
• T-2: Tiger Woods (5 skins)- $60k
• T-2: Rory McIlroy (4 skins) - $60k
• 4th: Hideki Matsuyama (1 skin) $20k
The Challenge Japan Skins: How it happened
The breakdown of prize money was as follows: Holes 1 to 6 were worth $10,000 per skin, Holes 7 to 12 were worth $15,000 per skin, Holes 13 to 17 were worth $20,000 per skin and Hole 18 was worth $100,000
Tiger Woods was the first to admit that he didn't have his A-game at the start of The Challenge, finding the rough from the tee and missing the green as McIlroy joked to him that the hole is 'actually over there'.
He ended up picking up on that first hole, but because players tied the first $10k rolled over to the second, and the stalemate continued until the par-three third, where Jason Day's birdie earned him the first three skins, and $30k.
Woods finally completed his first hole of the day at the fourth to tie McIlroy with a par, but broke through for his first two skins at the par-three fifth with a par as Day, McIlroy and Matsuyama all found the water from the tee.
Day, McIlroy and Mastuyama traded birdies at the sixth (which was the final $10k skins hole), and once again no skins were won at the seventh - when rugby legends paired up with each player to take on the hole. Bryan Habana jumped on Hideki Matsuyama when the home favourite holed a lengthy birdie putt to match Jason Day and George Gregan, and he was soon matched with a big birdie putt from Brian O'Driscoll (in team McIlroy).
Woods and Mike Tindall both failed to tie there, but it was the 15-time major champion who earned the next lot of money following a brilliant shot to within 10 feet at the par-four eighth, sinking his birdie putt for three skins and $40k.
The ninth hole was tied after Woods' putt burned the edge for a birdie - keeping him ahead of Day by three skins - and McIlroy and Matsuyama went on to halve both the 10th with further birdies and the 11th with pars.
McIlroy finally managed to get on to the leaderboard with a big move at the 12th, making a a brilliant birdie to claim four skins and $60k. A hole later, Mastuyama picked up his one and only skin of the tournament, and $20k, with birdie at the par-three 13th.
Nobody managed to win either the 14th or 15th holes, and the 16th goes to same way as both Day and Woods hole crucial birdie putts - meaning a par at the 17th for Day was worth a charge in to the lead with $80k and four skins.
Still, with the final hole worth $100k each player still could have taken home the trophy, but Woods couldn't match a final hole birdie from Day and it was the Australian who almost doubled his prize fund for victory.