Donald Jumps To Top Spot On PGA Money List

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Luke Donald has confirmed his position as world number one after claiming his latest PGA Tour title on the weekend.

Donald went into the final round of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic five shots off the pace and had plenty of work to do on the final 18 holes.

Luke Donald leads into final round

Luke Donald wins PGA Tour event at Disney World.

He needed to start sinking some birdies to challenge in the low scoring tournament and after nine holes he’d only managed to find two.

Things changed on the home turn though as he fired six in a row before finishing the day with three par’s.

His eight under round of 64 was enough to make up the deficit and confirm his spot at the top of the rankings.

“This is one of the most satisfying wins of my career,” he said.

Donald was more than $360,000 off Webb Simpson on the money list going into the tournament and with nine holes to play he sat two shots adrift of him.

He managed to make up the deficit though and in doing so leap frog his rival to the top of the money list.

“I’m thrilled and over the moon,” Donald said.

This win leaves Donald on track to becoming the first player in history to top the money list on both the US PGA tour and the European tour.

In Europe he holds a $1.8 million advantage over Rory McIlroy with five events left on the calendar.

Donald won today by two shots over Justin Leonard and earned $846,000, giving him just over $6.6 million for the year.

Simpson was naturally frustrated abut giving up his lead but said these things can happen when you’re playing against the world number one.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” said Simpson (69), who tied for 7th.

“The fact is, playing against the best player in the world, he’s going to do something great like that most of the time, and he did.”

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Donald Starts Strongly In FedEx Cup Decider

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Luke Donald sits just two shots off the pace at the Tour Championship in Atlanta after carting a four under 66 on day one of the season ending event.

He is headed by American Keegan Bradley who managed to sink four birdies in the last seven holes to come up with an impressive round of 64.

Donald is out to clinch the season ending championship and is considered by the experts to be the main threat with four other genuine hopefuls, however every player in the field has a theoretical winning hope.

Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson are the current Fed Ex Cup points leaders but it will all come down to the final results here in Atlanta.

Luke Donald maintains European challenge

Luke Donald is within striking distance at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Before he hit his opening shot the world number one Donald spoke about how he had mixed feelings in a year where he had achieved so much.

Sure he became the top ranked player on the planet but he feels not winning a major is a real missed opportunity.

‘The number one goal at the beginning of this year was to try and compete and be in contention for majors,’ said Donald.

‘In that regards, I suppose it was somewhat disappointing. I had a chance in two of them, which was an improvement on previous years, but two of them weren’t that great. I think that always has to be the focus.’

Winning the Fed Ex Cup though would be a handy consolation prize given it carries with it a $10 million bonus.

‘I’m not really thinking about the money. I’m really more concentrating on winning the tournament, picking up another trophy, winning the FedExCup, hopefully winning Player of the Year that comes with it, all the spoils that comes with it. But the bonus money is nice.’

The $10 million probably doesn’t feel like as much as it would to some people though given that he is in the running to become the first player in history to finish the year atop of both the PGA Tour and European Tour money list.

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Donald Attacks Uk Paper Over Claims Tiger’s Toasted

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Luke Donald has refuted a front page headline in the UK which quotes him as declaring Tiger Woods a spent force in world golf.

Yesterday morning the headline across the Daily Express read, “Luke Donald: The Tiger Woods Era is ‘Over’”.

Luke Donald

Luke Donald insists he didn't make the comments quoted in a British tabloid.

Today though Donald has taken a stance against the tabloid insisting he said no such thing.

“I don’t recall ever saying the Tiger era is over,” Donald said.

“I’ve certainly said in the past I think it’s tough to come back from physical injuries. I’ve had some, and obviously being away from the game for so long, it’s certainly not going to be easy for him to get back to where he was.

“I wouldn’t doubt that Tiger will come back and win again.”

It’s an interesting battle between the tabloid and Donald given his words weren’t paraphrased however directly quoted according to the author.

An extract from the article reads as follows:

“When you get that combination of injury plus the scandal that went on, mentally that’s quite scarring. It’s a lot to take, even for someone with one of the strongest minds in golf. It’s a confidence sport. Even though Tiger’s only 35, there are a lot of young guys coming up Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley and a bunch of others. I would assume a new era is upon us.”

If Donald had admitted to the story few could argue with him anyway, Woods hasn’t won a single event on the PGA tour for nearly 24 months.

His last triumph came in November of 2009 when Woods was treated like royalty during his stint down under for the Australian Masters.

It was after that win though that he was involved in the now infamous car accident and one of the biggest scandals in sport unravelled.

There’s also no refuting the fact there are a lot of young players coming through, in fact of the last eight major champions, five of them are yet to turn 30.

Still though, Donald is eager to clear the air and have his true feelings put forward.

“Whether the Tiger era is over, I don’t know,” Donald said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of great young players coming up and showing a lot of talent. But certainly, I would never be naive enough to write Tiger off.

“He has a tremendous amount of talent, and I’m sure when he starts playing a little bit more, that will start showing again.”

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Rory Fever Grips Dutch KLM Open

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All eyes are on Rory McIlroy today as he looks to take over the Netherlands on his way towards top spot on the world golf rankings.

The KLM Open is the launching pad he’s chosen to end his short absence from the game and the world number four has a great opportunity to score a couple of body blows early in the piece.

World number two and three Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are both competing in the same event meaning McIlroy can assert his dominance on them directly.

Kaymer is in fact the defending champion of the event and will also have plenty of support from the crowd with plenty of Germans pouring across the border.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy's charge to top spot starts in the KLM Open.

That being said there’s no doubt who the real poster boy of the tournament is with McIlroy billed as the ‘new Tiger’ following the former world number 1′s performance slump.

He boasts a similar level of confidence as well saying knocking Luke Donald off the number one ranking is something he hopes to accomplish within the next 12 months.

“I’m not desperate, but it’s definitely a goal that I’ve set for myself,” he said.

“I feel as if it’s very attainable.

“It might not be this year, but definitely into next year, I can give myself a very good platform to kick off the season next year if I end the season well.

“So all I want to do is try and get closer to Lee, obviously at Number Two and then to look at Number One, Luke’s got a little bit of a lead at the minute and it would be nice to get closer to him.

“But at the end of the day, winning golf tournaments takes care of that. So I want to just concentrate on trying to play well and give myself chances to win every week that I play.”

There will be no shortage of people able to tell him how he’s going either with a flurry of media attention following his every move across the country.

His US Open win was what really set him as popular figure as he busted the mold of the usual golfing stereotype, much like Woods did before him.

He says he’s not feeling any extra pressure from the attention though and daily life remains more or less unchanged.

“I’m still trying to keep my feet on the ground, I have the same friends, and I’m still very close to my Mum and Dad,” he said.

“So I try to live as normal a life as possible. But sometimes that’s not always easy.”

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Simpson Claims Reavie In Deutsche Bank Championship

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Webb Simpson is the USA PGA Deutsche Bank Champion after finishing the better in the second playoff hole against fellow American Chez Reavie.

Simpson hit a nine foot birdie putt after a glorious approach shot to claim his second title in two weeks.

In fact his victory a fortnight ago at Greensboro was his first all year giving him a huge boost in confidence and prize money as he rounds out the season.

It was a tremendous closing few holes for Simpson who sank a 26 foot monster put on the 18th just to force it to a playoff.

On the first playoff hole he was again under pressure dropping one in from 15 feet.

“It was great,” Simpson said. “To finish the way I did, birdies on 18 and then birdie 17, it was awesome.

Webb Simpson wins in Greensboro

Webb Simpson makes it two in quick succession after his win in Greensboro.

“I thought winning the second time would be easier but it wasn’t.”

While jubilation for Simpson it was disappointment for Reavie who was so close to a fairytale result in Boston.

His only ever PGA title came way back in 2008 at the Canadian Open and as he approached the 72nd hole a second was well within reach.

All he had to do was save par on a hole that just five players had bogied before him.

Unfortunately that number then grew to six as Reavie sprayed his second shot wide and found the rough to the side of the green.

It was his first bogey in 30 holes of golf and left him with a final round of 66.

Both players were tied on a 15 under par 269 with Simpson shooting a final round of 65 to draw alongside Reavie at the end of regulation.

“Unfortunately, my wedge didn’t quite work out,” Reavie said. “I’m going to make a 5 there nine times out of 10. But all in all on the day, I played fantastic.”

The win not only gives Simpson the $1.44 million top prize, it also gives him the overall lead in Fed Ex Cup points standings.

The field of 100 has been cut down to 70 after this tournament with round three to take place at Cog Hill near Chicago for the BMW Championship.

The end of season Tour Championship will then be hosted one week later in Atlanta.

Two strokes back from the leaders of this event were Luke Donald of England alongside Jason Day of Australia and Brandt Snedeker of the USA.

In sixth it was Jum Furyk of the USA a shot ahead of fellow Americans Bo Van Pelt and Hunter Mahan as well as Australian Adam Scott.

Further back in the pack though few were happier than South African Ernie Els who has just managed to keep his Fed Ex Cup dream alive.

He finished 99th at the end of the first playoff series just sneaking him into this week’s field.

When he arrived at the tee for the final hole he’d improved that by over 20 spots and was just outside gaining a berth in the BMW Championship.

After hitting the green with a good approach shot he managed to sink a high pressure six footer to just sneak inside the bubble.

“When I got to the green, up there on the board I saw I was 71st. I knew I had to make it,” Els said.

“In a way it’s good for me. It brings out a little fight in me again.

“I’ve been struggling all year, especially with the putter. I’ve gone to the belly putter. The putts I’ve made will help me in the future. I’m a little more steady than I’ve been. I’ve made some clutch putts.

“Hopefully I’ll play better in Chicago.”

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Now that Tiger Woods not the favorite, picking a winner is like throwing darts at a board

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Adam Scott

Adam Scott

Picking a favorite before a major championship has always been like throwing darts at a board, only in previous years one target was a little bigger than the others. Not anymore. While some of the best players in the game stand a better chance this week than others, the post-Tiger era, especially in major championships, is both wide open and strangely disquieting.

There have been six consecutive first-time major winners going all the way back to Graeme McDowell at last year’s U.S. Open, and nine of the last 10 going all the way back to Lucas Glover’s Open win at Bethpage Black. The only two repeat major winners in the last three years are Angel Cabrera and Phil Mickelson, while the No.1 and No.2 players in the world, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, are major-less. In fact, the top five players in the World Golf Rankings own exactly one major title between them: Martin Kaymer’s win at last year’s PGA Championship.

This is strange place for a game that is used to having a top dog. For 14 years, Tiger Woods elevated the public consciousness of golf and escalated the level of play on all tours. More people watched when Tiger played well, and the professional game improved in an attempt to keep up with him.

Prior to Tiger, Greg Norman set the bar. Before that, it was Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, and before that, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. Sure, there were other great players in all those eras, but the game has seemingly always had a standard bearer. Now that Tiger had become what legendary football coach Bill Parcells calls “a JAG” (just another guy), the question going into this PGA Championship becomes: is golf better off with or without one dominant player?

“It’s a pretty good question, that,” said Darren Clarke, the most recent major champion who is looking to become the first player since Padraig Harrington to follow a British Open win with the victory in the PGA Championship. “Tiger was the best player for a very long time and he raised the bar in terms of what everybody else did and everybody else’s preparation and the way they went about tournaments. So in one way, it’s good.

“In another way, you have guys challenging all the time, different players; the likes of Adam Scott, who played sensationally well last week in Akron. It was great to see that for him.”

Scott, a soft-spoken Australian, would never be so brash as to name himself the likely successor to Tiger. But he did say he thinks “the state of the game is in a really interesting place right now. We’ve seen a lot of great stories with some really high-quality young players who are living up to their potential quickly, like Rory (McIlroy) and Ryo (Ishikawa) and Matteo Manassero winning as teenagers. The competition is strong at the moment. Luke Donald has played amazing; Lee Westwood is playing amazing. I think it’s a very interesting place for golf. It’s exciting to watch.”

But will the public continue to watch if the game fails to produce one or two players who separate themselves from the pack, particularly in majors?

“I think the fans always enjoy the hero, the one player that does dominate, who they can cheer for, and I think Tiger was that person, obviously,” said World No. 1 Donald. “But there are obviously people out there who enjoy also like seeing a bit more variance and variety; that other people have a chance to win. That’s been the case the last two or three years. There’s been a lot of shuffling around in the World Golf Rankings, and I’m sure that’s good for the sport as well.

“I’m not sure which is better. I’d probably sway with (having) one person dominating. I think it brings more to the sport.”

Lee Westwood, who would like to become that dominant player, thinks the game is just fine either way. “I think it’s exciting when there’s a lot of different winners and I think it’s exciting when there’s a dominant player,” Westwood said. “You can’t say that when Tiger was winning lots of majors it was boring or dull; it was exciting to watch and see what he would do next. I think it’s healthy for the game both ways. I think depending on who you are and what your idea is, some people are not going to like it when there’s not somebody dominant and others are not going to like it when it’s predictable.”

Then, in a moment that summed up the state of game as well as any, Westwood concluded by saying: “It’s something you can’t control. What you get is what you get.”

This week, what we’re going to get is far from predictable. And that is a good thing.

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Luke Donald and Jack Nicklaus chat at Memorial

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Luke Donald

Luke Donald

Jack Nicklaus played his last round in a major alongside a 27-year-old from England with a quiet demeanor and efficient game. He had no idea that Friday afternoon at St. Andrews that Luke Donald one day would be No. 1 in the world.

 

Is he surprised six years later to see Donald atop the world ranking?

Not from what Nicklaus has seen in recent months.

Nicklaus, as he does with most tour players who move to Palm Beach County, offered Donald a membership at The Bear’s Club, which has one of the most complete practice facilities around. Donald has been putting it to good use.

“Luke’s game has come a long way,” Nicklaus said. “But I will have to tell you that Luke is a member at The Bear’s Club down in Florida, and he’s there all the time. There isn’t anybody who spends more time working on his golf game than I’ve seen in Luke Donald. And he spends his time chipping and putting, chipping and putting. I mean, he wears out the practice greens.

“And I think that the effort he has put into it has been rewarded.”

The rewards are more than even Donald once imagined. By winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in a playoff over Lee Westwood, he became only the 15th player to be No. 1 in the 25 years of the world ranking.

It was his second win in three months against a world-class field, to go with a playoff loss at Hilton Head and another runner-up finish in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain. Donald hasn’t finished out of the top 10 — a streak of nine tournaments — since he missed the cut at Riviera in his return from a three-month winter break.

Donald makes his debut as the new No. 1 on Thursday, when he tees off at the Memorial with the last two Masters champions, Charl Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson.

The field also includes Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and Players champion K.J. Choi. Missing is Tiger Woods, who is recovering from left leg injuries.

Donald is not a physically imposing figure — not along the lines of Woods, Vijay Singh or Martin Kaymer — yet there is no disputing the results he has put together over the last two years. He only has three wins, but he has finished in the top 10 in just over 50 percent of his tournaments.

Most importantly, he feels like he’s No. 1.

“I do,” Donald said. “I think the way that the world rankings are, consistency is highly weighted. If you can keep playing well week in and week out, keep earning those points, then you’re going to climb in the world rankings. And I don’t think there’s anybody who has been more consistent in the last nine months than me.”

There’s another factor that Donald willingly points out: Woods’ downfall has given the rest of golf a fighting chance. That’s one reason Donald never spent much time dreaming about being No. 1 in the world. With Woods around, it didn’t seem mathematically possible.

“As a kid you dream about winning majors and winning tournaments,” he said. “But for me, I always kept an eye out on the world rankings and had an interest in it. But I supposed for the bulk of my career, Tiger was so far ahead that it never really crept into my mind.

“But in the last year or so, there’s been more of an upheaval in the rankings, and there’s been a lot more movement. So I knew the opportunity was there.”

With Woods out of the way — he slipped to No. 13 this week — Donald, Westwood and Kaymer have been No. 1 over the last three weeks. That’s the highest turnover in the ranking since 1997, when Woods, Ernie Els and Greg Norman took turns over three weeks. Woods eventually established himself as the undisputed No. 1 in the ranking.

This could take longer to sort out, although Donald is in the right place.

He reached the top in style, winning the European Tour’s flagship event despite not having his best game on the weekend, and beating the former No. 1 in a sudden-death playoff.

“I would have loved to have won by 10 and not had to go through all that stress,” Donald said. “I didn’t have my best golf last week. I think that’s what was more satisfying to me than anything else, that even without really feeling totally in control of my game, I was able to get it done. And obviously, to do it in that circumstance, going head to head with Lee and to have everything on the line, made it that much more special.”

The last time No. 1 changed hands with the top two players going head to head was at the 2004 Deutsche Bank Championship, although Vijay Singh easily defeated Woods in regulation without having to go to a playoff.

The biggest change for Donald was a short game and the shortest space in golf — between the ears. Along with working on his fitness following a wrist injury in 2008, he hired performance coach Dave Alred, best known in rugby circles as a kicking coach for the likes of Jonny Wilkinson.

Kaymer, after losing to Donald in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, said Donald’s short game was better than Mickelson’s. Along with trying to keep it in the fairway to compensate for his lack of power off the tee, Donald has worked endlessly with longtime coach Pat Goss on chipping and putting.

Nicklaus, the tournament host at Memorial, can attest to that from what he sees at The Bear’s Club.

“I’ve worked very hard down there,” Donald said. “They have such great facilities that I feel guilty if I don’t work hard.”

Does he ever see Nicklaus hitting balls?

“Not very often, no,” Donald said with a smile. “I think he spends a lot of time on the tennis courts.”

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Snedeker wins Heritage in Sudden Death and denies Luke Donald his No.1 status

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Brandt Snedeker wins Haritage

Brandt Snedeker wins Haritage

The toughest part of Brandt Snedeker’s day was spent in the clubhouse.

 

Snedeker posted an out-of-nowhere 7-under 64 on Sunday to come from six shots behind to finish in the lead at the Heritage nearly two hours before the round ended.

So Snedeker headed inside to watch, wait and see if he’d get back on the course. He eventually did, beating Luke Donald in a playoff Sunday and denying the Englishman a chance at No. 1.

“It was brutal,” Snedeker said of his time in front of the TV. “I don’t want them to do bad, but I don’t want them to do great, either.”

In the end, Snedeker had the great finish, surviving against one of the world’s best in a gritty three-hole playoff for his second career PGA Tour win and first since the 2007 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., in his rookie season.

“To win this time, after all the hard work I put in the last three or four years, trying to improve, trying to get better,” he said. “I feel like my game is finally there.”

It certainly was at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Snedeker birdied seven of his first 12 holes to grab the lead just as the final pair of Donald and defending champion Jim Furyk teed off. Then Snedeker closed the final round with a 12-foot birdie putt on the signature, closing lighthouse hole at No. 18.

“It’s a storybook ending really, to be playing Luke in a playoff, to even have a chance to win was exciting to me,” he said.

Donald would’ve risen to the top spot in the world from No. 3 had he won. His countryman, Lee Westwood, moved from No. 2 to No. 1, replacing Martin Kaymer, after winning the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters earlier Sunday.

Donald saved par from difficult spots on the 71st and 72nd holes to force the playoff, then did it again on the second extra hole. But his luck ran out on Harbour Town Golf Links’ closing lighthouse hole, No. 18, when he got a partially buried lie in a front bunker.

Donald blasted out about 15 feet from the flag and his chip for par from just off the green hit the back edge of the cup and bounced away, giving Snedeker the victory.

Snedeker said he was more worried about getting to New Orleans for next week’s event when he woke up Sunday than contending for the title Sunday.

Tommy Gainey finished a stroke back after a 68.

Donald was the steadiest player most of the week at Harbour Town. He had birdies on the fourth and fifth holes to get to 13 under, but dropped back after bogeys on the seventh and 10th holes. He caught Snedeker with a birdie on No. 13, then parred his way in for the playoff.

“It was going to be some big rewards if I won today,” Donald said. “But I’ll try and find the positives from this week and move on.”

At least Donald leaves No. 1 at something, making $615,000 to top of the PGA Tour money list.

This figured to come down to a final-round duel between the final pair of third-round leader Donald and Furyk, who was only a stroke behind at the start, until Snedeker’s run.

“Kind of came out of nowhere,” Snedeker said.

Donald certainly kept him on the edge of his seat.

After Donald’s final birdie of regulation, he missed makable birdie tries on the 15th and 16th holes. Then Donald looked like he’d shoot himself out of it, sending his tee shot on the par-3 17th off the back, then landing his approach into the bunker in front of No. 18. Both times Donald chipped within 4 feet to save par.

Snedeker and Donald traded birdies on the first extra hole, the 18th, and pars on the second one, the 17th.

Snedeker hit the green on the last playoff hole and two-putted for par to win $1,026,000. The biggest question facing Snedeker now is whether he’ll be back to defend his title.

The Heritage is without a title sponsor, something PGA Tour and event leaders say is essential for its return in 2012. There was talk all week of a Sunday surprise, an announcement of a backer to give assurances to pros. None was forthcoming, though, and Tournament Director Steve Wilmot said “the sponsorship search continues in earnest.”

Gainey, bidding to become the first South Carolina native to win the state’s PGA Tour event, missed a 15-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would’ve put him to the playoff.

“I would have loved to have won,” said Gainey, who gained fame as “Two Gloves” on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series. “I think it’s the second best tournament on tour” behind the Masters.

Furyk finished with his highest score, 76, his past 33 rounds at Harbour Town to fall from contention. “I just kind of got on a bad roll and it snowballed on me today,” he said.

Tim Herron (67) and Ricky Barnes (69) tied for fourth, two shots out of the playoff.

Snedeker said he faced softer conditions with his earlier tee time that fueled his hot start. He had birdies on the second, third and fourth holes to move within two of the lead, then added birdies on Nos. 6, 7, and 9 to finish the front side at 30 and put himself alongside Donald on top of the leaderboard.

Things weren’t as easy for Snedeker on the back. He bogeyed the 13th and 16th holes, but rallied one last time with the birdie on the difficult 18th.

When it was over, he shook hands with Donald and told him to keep his chin up. “I just told him he’s going to be No. 1. Sorry it didn’t go the right way for him,” Snedeker said.

DIVOTS: Ian Poulter, 16th in the world this week, struggled on the weekend with a 75-71 after going 7 under the first two rounds. Maybe the problem was supernatural. Poulter tweeted several times that he thought the house he was in this week was haunted. Poulter says the house had a dead-bolted door and every time he gets up “the door is unlocked and slightly open.” He says it happened seven times this week. Spooky. … U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, No. 5 in the world, also had troubles on the weekend, going 74-74 after opening 5 under par.

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Luke Donald can claim No. 1 position with win at Heritage on Sunday

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Luke Donald leads into final round

Luke Donald leads into final round

Luke Donald was more concerned about who was behind him at the Heritage than what’s ahead should he win Sunday.

Donald shot a 1-under 70 on Saturday to take a one-stroke leader over defending champion Jim Furyk after three rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links. A victory would vault the third-ranked Donald to No. 1. Donald knows if thinks too much about that, he’ll lose sight of the stellar field trying to chase him down.

“I think there’s a bunch of people behind us that have a good chance, too, so I don’t count anyone else out,” he said. “It should be a good battle out there.”

It usually is with Donald and Furyk.

Furyk, the American ranked 13th in the world, used a par save from the bunker on the 72nd hole to win the Tour Championship by a stroke over Donald last year and claim the $10 million FedExCup bonus.

Donald came right back the next week, beating Furyk 1-up in Ryder Cup singles in Europe’s victory.

“I got a little revenge,” he said.

This time the prize for Donald would be two-fold: His first season with multiple wins on the PGA Tour and the elevation to No. 1 in the world.

There were seven of the world’s top 20 players here this week, a field strong enough to push Donald past the idle No. 1 Martin Kaymer and No. 2 Lee Westwood.

Westwood would take the top spot with a win at the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters, where he holds a five-stroke lead after 54 holes, should Donald falter.

The two Englishmen exchanged messages about their play.

“Yeah, he sent me a message yesterday just saying, ‘Good playing,’ and I sent one back,” Donald said. “We’re obviously Ryder Cup partners and we’re friends off the course. We never wish bad on each other.”

Donald let a few early nerves show through by hitting his approach to par-5 second hole out of bounds left, leading to a double-bogey 7 that dropped him from the lead.

But Donald steeled himself with two solid par saves on the third and fourth holes when his iron play was shaky. He was in the rough in front of a trap on par-4 third, yet chipped it up to 6 feet for the par.

Then, Donald was well right of the green on the par-3 fourth. Again, he saved himself with the short game, chipping inside of 2 feet, and regained his momentum on the par-5 fifth with a 12-footer for birdie.

“Those up-and-downs and keeping some momentum going where I wasn’t going completely backwards was big for me,” Donald said.

Brendon de Jonge (66) and Scott Verplank (67) were two shots behind at 9 under. Masters runner-up Jason Day (71), Ricky Barnes (67) and Tommy Gainey (67) were 8 under.

Furyk held the lead for much of the back nine at Harbour Town Golf Links, but bogeyed the closing lighthouse hole for a 69 to drop back.

Donald, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and was fourth at the Masters, called on the steady, focused style that made him one of the world’s best to move back to the top with birdies on the fifth and seventh holes. Donald’s put his approach on the 16th hole to 3 feet for his final birdie to reach 11 under.

Furyk had his chance to hold on to a share of the lead, but sent his second shot on the 18th hole into a bunker behind the green, and could not make the 16-footer for par after blasting out.

Furyk and Donald will be paired in the final group Sunday for what sets up as a fabulous finish in what might be the final Heritage. A PGA Tour fixture since 1969, the tournament is without a title sponsor, which tour and event leaders say is essential for returning in 2012.

Both have become Harbour Town masters, combining for 14 rounds in the 60s over the past three tournaments.

“I think I’m there, I’m in position and when I play well I feel like this golf course really suits my game,” Furyk said.

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A look at the ever popular Miguel Angel Jimenez

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Miguel Angel Jimenez

Miguel Angel Jimenez

Miguel Angel Jimenez seems to get better and better with age. Golfweek’s Jim McCabe has a look at the man behind the cigar.

Flags from 15 countries flapped in brisk mountain air, and beneath them walked 63 players who could have been cut from the same mold. Be they American or Japanese, Irish or Australian, German or Italian, they carried themselves lean and fit, as if headed to a GQ photo shoot, offering fluid swings and impeccable posture and focus.

Then there was the other guy, he of the ponytail and cigar, the slight paunch, and the warmup routine that made you wonder if he weren’t preparing for a game of Twister, what with the way he took clubs back and contorted his upper body.

It was the 13th edition of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but so far as unmatched play goes, the winner already had been decided in a rout.

Take a bow, Miguel Angel Jimenez.

He represents Spain, but stretch the picture a little bit. He represents so many of us who are what we are and strive to be happy with that – even on those days when we come up short.

So he lost in the quarterfinals to Martin Kaymer?

Jimenez shrugged, then looked you in the eye, as if to calm your disappointment for him.

“We are humans,” he said. “We are not machines. It is the first thing you have to learn in this life.”

During a week in which eight of the final 16 players were younger than 30, when a 17-year-old won twice, when a 26-year-old became the world’s No. 1, when neon green and electric pink shirts and pants were more prominent than cacti . . . Jimenez – at 47 the oldest in the field – provided a reminder that being comfortable in one’s own skin is a beautiful thing.

Should you not know anything about Jimenez and you saw him walk to the first tee of your club, two things would hit you. One, you might think he’s the Dos Equis guy and remind you to “stay thirsty, my friends.”
Two, you’d probably want to give him two a side.

Hours later, after having shot 64 and taken you for all you might have wagered, Jimenez might invite you to lunch, because everyone needs to know when to shut off and focus on what life has to offer us . . . and who better to learn from than the Spaniard?

Asked about Jimenez, a longtime PGA European Tour official smiled and explained that the man was the definition of low maintenance. When he travels to a big tournament, he asks for just three things: “Extra virgin olive oil, good Cubans (cigars) and Marques de Riscal.”

Sounds like a wonderful way to travel, eh, Miguel?

He smiled and conceded that people seem to know that about him and appreciate him for it. That is good.

“I am myself. I don’t pretend to be anything else,” Jimenez said.

Matt Rollins and Chance Cozby know this up close and personal. Tour reps for Ping, Jimenez’s clubs of choice for years, they have seen the man’s humility.

“He creates a level of comfort,” Cozby said. “When you’re with him, he wants you there, and you feel that.”

Having been eliminated in the first round at this championship three years ago, Jimenez asked if he could tour the Ping factory in the Phoenix area. Rollins started walking Jimenez out to where the clubs are physically built when the Spaniard stopped, swept his arm over a room of about 10-15 workers and said, “Are these the people who build my clubs?”

Told they were, Jimenez promptly shook his hands with each one, introducing himself and thanking them “for making my clubs.”

That he has employed those clubs for nearly 30 years as a professional and won 18 times on the European Tour is cause for celebration, given that he has done it all with a homemade swing and remained true to himself.

“He has a great attitude, a good love for the game,” Luke Donald said. “He may not have the most classic swing, but he gets it done.”

Down four holes and seemingly out against Kaymer, Jimenez won the 15th with a birdie, the 16th and 17th with pars, and shockingly delivered the match to the 18th hole. Alas, the magical comeback against the world’s best was not to be, so when Jimenez failed to pitch in for birdie, he embraced his Ryder Cup teammate and marched up the hill toward the clubhouse. It was time to extinguish the competitive fire that burned within and embrace the love of life that envelopes him.

Until his next golf challenge, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Jimenez was going to visit a friend in the Dominican Republic, where they would roll cigars, savor good food and sip fine wine.

As himself, of course, because “I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”

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