SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Jordan Spieth gave Jason Day a thumbs-up as he watched Day's long birdie attempt roll tantalizingly close to the 17th hole at the PGA Championship.
No way Spieth was going to beat him. Might as well tip his cap.
Spieth closed out one of the best performances at a major championship Sunday — 17-under 271 after his 4-under 68 — to finish one of the best seasons at the majors.
But he finished second in this one. Day shot 67 on the day and was 20 under for the tournament, the best winning score to par in major history.
Only three players other than Day have shot lower than 17 under in a major: Tiger Woods, Bob May and Nick Faldo. That's Spieth's consolation. And really, he had plenty of consolation as he left Whistling Straits, including becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world, the second youngest every at 22.
"Easy a loss as I've ever had," Spieth said. "Because I felt that I not only couldn't do much about it … but I also accomplished one of my life-long goals and in the sport of golf. I'll always be a No. 1 player in the world.
"(But) I realize that although we have just reached that goal … with the way these guys are playing and the way you see it being played on the biggest stage, it's going to be really, really hard to keep that position."
He supplants Rory McIlroy, who finished 17th at 9 under after his final-round 69. Spieth is the 18th player, and fifth American, to reach No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986.
What Spieth doesn't have yet is a PGA Championship. He just missed in his quest to join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three majors in a season. After winning the Masters and U.S. Open, he would have been the first to sweep all three majors on U.S. soil.
Spieth began the day trailing Day by two shots. Could he have made a few more putts? Probably. Could he have driven the more accurately? Sure. Could he have changed the result? Probably not, and he knew it.
"It would have been hard to shoot 8 under and go 15 under for the weekend," said Spieth, who worked his way into the mix by shooting 30 on the back nine Saturday. "That's very hard to do at a major championship.
"I never had the opportunity to control the round (Sunday)."
But nobody will say Day had an easy route to the win.
"To be honest, the kid just doesn't go away," he said of Spieth. "It baffles me, the stuff he can prove out there. To hold him off knowing he's going to be the best player in the world now, it felt great."