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Four-Ball: Day's dominance, Match Play sleepers

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Jason Day checks off much of pre-Masters checklist (1:04)

ESPN.com's Michael Collins looks at Jason Day's victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and whether it sets him up well for the upcoming Masters. (1:04)

Jason Day's eighth PGA Tour victory came at Arnie's place on Sunday, but what stood out most in the Aussie's win?

And will Rory McIlroy be able to turn things around before the Masters in a couple of weeks?

Our scribes weigh in on those topics and more in this week's edition of Monday Four-Ball.

1. What impressed you most about Jason Day's victory at Bay Hill?

SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie: Being the first player since Fred Couples in 1992 to go wire to wire was certainly impressive. But it was Day's ability to grind on Saturday, and especially on Sunday, that impressed me most. When Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell went on their runs, and Day couldn't score, he just stayed within his game. He eventually stuck it close on the 17th, getting his two and going up and down on the 18th for a win.

SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: What impressed me the most was how Day was able to finish. He was down a stroke going into the difficult par-3 17th. He hit a dart to 15 feet. Then he had a ridiculous up-and-down from the back bunker on No. 18. Day was very vocal about his recent conversations with Tiger on the mindset of getting it done every time he tees it up. And despite dropping shots, he had enough inside of him to come out on top. And that was incredibly impressive.

ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: I was impressed by the way he handled not being comfortable. He said in his news conference that he felt the "fight or flight" panic response a couple of times out there. The tee shot at No. 17 and the bunker shot on No. 18 are what separates good tour pros from great ones.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: He didn't have his best stuff on the weekend and still found a way to win. Things looked easy the first two days -- not so much on Saturday and Sunday, and yet he prevailed anyway.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Don't take this as a criticism, but Day is a thinker. You could even call him an overthinker. Some players have an ability to compartmentalize their performance and leave it on the golf course. Day analyzes and reviews so much that he concedes it keeps him awake some nights. So for him to sleep on the lead three nights in a row -- or try to sleep, as the case may be -- and still win is extremely impressive.

2. Which "sleeper" goes the furthest at WGC-Match Play this week?

Barrie: Having not seen the bracket as of Sunday night to look at the seedings, I'll take Billy Horschel as my "sleeper." Ranked 44th in the world, Horschel is hardly a favorite, but he's a proven tour player. Horschel took down Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner last year, eventually losing in 20 holes to McIlroy. He's got the game to rip through a bracket and cut down the nets.

Coachman: I love Brooks Koepka. He is the type of player that has shown he can win on the PGA Tour. Koepka is also at times overpowering, and if he gets on a hot streak at the right time there is no reason why he should not be able to beat anyone in the field. I understand he has had injuries but my money for an underdog is Brooks Koepka.

Collins: I'm calling him a sleeper because no one over here talks about him enough: Danny Willett. Last year he made it to the semifinals against runner-up Gary Woodland. This season Willett already has a third-place finish at both WGC events and tied for 22nd at the Valspar Championship.

Harig: Thorbjorn Olesen. The last player in the field at No. 66 in the world, he's no slouch. And given the format, no top seed in the round-robin setup is guaranteed to advance. He's got an excellent chance to be among the top 16 come the weekend.

Sobel: Most casual fans first became aware of Shane Lowry when he defeated McIlroy in the opening round of this event a few years ago. He has a terrific touch around the greens that will keep him alive on every hole. He also has motivation: With the Ryder Cup coming up this year, he wants to prove that he has the chops to win some matches.

3. Why have or haven't you lost faith in Rory McIlroy's game heading into the Masters?

Barrie: I haven't lost faith in McIlroy's game, but I am concerned about his head. He said he let his poor play linger, which takes him completely out of his game. This week was a prime example. He shot 75 twice, then finished with a 65. Maybe he needs to go the Day route and text his good friend Tiger Woods to get some head advice. Apparently Woods is the new Dr. Bob Rotella. It worked for Day. If McIlroy can stop compounding the struggles and clear his head, he'll be fine.

Coachman: I can't say McIlroy is on my current list of favorites and here's why. He's had way to many big numbers in recent weeks. You can't have multiple double-bogeys and win at Augusta. Every top player has had bad stretches the past 18 months: Spieth in recent weeks, Day at the beginning of last year, McIlroy now. But guess what? Each one of those guys has multiple wins in the past 18 months. Golf is hard, and you can turn it on a dime. But the way McIlroy is playing right now I don't see it happening. I hope I am wrong.

Collins: I have not even come close to losing faith in McIlroy. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a little nervous for him. I just don't want the Masters to become to McIlroy what the U.S. Open is to Phil Mickelson. I expect a long run in the WGC-Match Play for McIlroy and that he'll be ready when it's time for Augusta.

Harig: McIlroy is in many ways like a Mickelson, a player who falls out of form often, marked by inconsistency, but able to find it quickly. His tournament at Bay Hill showed that as he was down and up within rounds. He might not be a factor at the Masters, but nobody should be surprised if he is highly competitive.

Sobel: No way. He's still on my short list of serious contenders for the green jacket. Sure he's posting too many big numbers right now and he needs to maintain a better focus on eliminating those, as he has said. But his game is really close. I could definitely see everything start clicking for him two weeks from now.

4. How much stock do you put in the latest National Golf Foundation report, as well as PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua's response to it?

Barrie: I always wonder how they compile these numbers. And if the study shows 2.2 million new golfers in 2015, just 200,000 short of the era when Tiger Woods was at his peak, that doesn't look like an alarming drop-off. Bevacqua's job is to spin any data into a positive. He did that. My take: Enjoy the 2.2 million new golfers in a fivesome on a Saturday at the local muni.

Coachman: I am a believer in the eye test. It's no secret golf is an extra-income sport. I don't care so much for these studies because I know what I see. I have a 5-year-old son who loves playing golf and I hope there are millions more like him. As parents, we will do anything to help our kids do what they love, but it doesn't mean as adults we will spend the money to play this sport if we don't have it. It's the only sport really you can play all of your life, and that's why these studies are skewed a little bit from among others.

Collins: Bevaqua has to say everything is OK. How would it look if the PGA of America, which just canceled the Grand Slam of Golf, had to say golf, on the whole, is slipping?

Harig: All of it seems like quibbling. Regardless of whose numbers you believe, participation isn't exactly booming. The game has so many contradictions such as $500 drivers amid effor to make it affordable; courses that don't offer nine-hole rates but the common refrain that rounds take too much time; or that the latest greatest golf courses to show off are those that the game's participants find too difficult. There doesn't seem to be much discussion about those issues.

Sobel: It's all a bunch of spin and hyperbole. Look, golf was never dying, as we were often led to believe in recent years. But it also isn't thriving as much as this report maintains. The game is in a good place right now. Which is nice but doesn't offer the kind hyperbolic headlines that grab people's attention.