Monday, March 19, 2012

Tweet inShare2 Golf: Luke Donald wins Transitions in four-player playoff, regains No. 1 world ranking

One great round. One solid swing out of the rough. One clutch birdie putt.

That's what Luke Donald needed to win the Transitions Championship in a playoff in Palm Harbor, Fla., and get back to No. 1 in the world.

Donald was starting to feel overlooked in the two weeks since Rory McIlroy replaced him atop the world ranking. That changed on a steamy Sunday at Innisbrook, where Donald closed with a 5-under 66 and won a four-man playoff on the first extra hole with a 7-iron out of the rough to 6 feet below the cup for birdie to beat Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Bae Sang-Moon.

"I think people ... thought that my last year was maybe a little bit more of a -- not a fluke, but I don't think many people thought I could do that all over again this year," Donald said. "Hopefully, I can prove them wrong."

With his fifth win in his last 31 starts around the world, Donald went back to No. 1 and will stay there until he gets to Augusta National for the Masters and tries to win his first major title.

McIlroy wasted no time sending his congratulations through Twitter: "Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats (at)LukeDonald! Impressive performance!"

"I'm sure he got a taste of the view and I'm sure he'll want more of it. He's a great player," Donald said. "I think golf is in a good spot right now. There's a lot of excitement going on."

Donald returned to No. 1 by winning a playoff, just as he did at Wentworth last May when he first rose to the top of the ranking.

Garrigus birdied the last two holes for a 64 and was the first to finish at 13-under 271. Bae made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole for a 68. Furyk had a 69 and was the last one to join the playoff.

Missing from the group was Ernie Els, who was leading at 14 under when he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 16. He also missed the green badly on the par-3 17th for a bogey, then pulled a 4-foot par putt on 18 for a 67 to finish a shot out of the playoff.

"I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head," Els said.

Scott Piercy, who finished off a 62 before the leaders teed off, joined Els, Ken Duke (68) and Jeff Overton (66) in a tie for fifth.

Retief Goosen showed on the first hole that it was a minor miracle he was even tied for the lead. His back was in such pain that he could barely finish his swing. He drove into the trees, took five shots to reach the green and made double bogey.

Goosen closed with a 75 for a 277 total. He now goes to Virginia for a protein injection for his back.

Meanwhile, Charlie Wi hit three straight shots that caromed off a tree, leading to an octuple-bogey 13 on the par-5 fifth hole.

His tee shot went into the right rough. There was a wood chip next to the ball, which caused his 6-iron to come out to the right into the trees. From there, the former Cal star had a tree in front of him with a trunk 3 feet high until it split into two limbs. He tried to hit 5-iron through the 4-foot gap, but it struck the tree and went onto the practice range. He tried it again and got the same result.

"I said, 'OK, that's not getting up. Give me a 6-iron,' " Wi said. He hit the tree and saw a third ball go back onto the range.

He finished with a 78 and 292 total.

LPGA Tour: Yani Tseng two-putted for par from 40 feet in fading light to hold off Ai Miyazato and Na Yeon Choi by a stroke in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

The top-ranked Taiwanese star won her 14th tour title and second in four events this year. She closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 18-under 270. The second-ranked Choi also shot 68, and Miyazato had a 69.

Three shots behind Miyazato at the turn, Tseng birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine and closed with three pars.

Because of lightning near the Wildfire Golf Club, play was delayed three times for a total of three hours. Tseng holed her winning 2-foot putt at 6:45 p.m., seven minutes after sunset.

Champions Tour: Loren Roberts shot a 2-under 69 to win the Toshiba Classic by two strokes over Mark Calcavecchia (73), Tom Kite (69) and Bernhard Langer (70) at Newport Beach Country Club. Roberts made a 5-foot birdie putt on 18 after bogeys on three of the previous four holes. He finished at 8-under 205.

European Tour: Julien Quesne shot an 8-under 64 and won the Andalucian Open in Marbella, Spain. He birdied four of his final five holes to finish at 17-under 271, two shots ahead of Matteo Manassero (68).


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