May 27, 2012
Donald reclaims world No. 1 title
By Sports Network
Luke Donald reclaimed the top spot in the world rankings Sunday after a comfortable victory at the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour.
It was one year ago when Donald bested then world No. 1 Lee Westwood in a playoff to become first in the rankings for the first time. On Sunday, Donald returned to the top spot occupied for several weeks by Rory McIlroy.
Once McIlroy missed the cut on Friday, all Donald needed was a top-eight finish to sit atop the golf world.
He had his eye on something a little better at Wentworth Club.
Donald, who took a two-shot lead into Sunday's final round, posted a four- under 68 and won by four shots at 15-under 273. He posted four rounds in the 60s and joined Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to successfully defend their titles in the event's history.
"Obviously this is our biggest event on the European Tour," Donald said in a televised interview. "To come here and defend, and get back to No. 1 as a side-note, is very sweet indeed."
While he had to sweat out a close win over Westwood last year, the only things similar to 12 months ago was the result and the bump in the world rankings.
Donald cruised after some tense early moments. He took a three-shot lead after the 10th, then visited the winner's circle for the seventh time in his European Tour career.
Justin Rose was his closest competitor through much of Sunday, but the Englishman couldn't get anything going with the putter. He carded a two-under 70 and shared second with former British Open champion Paul Lawrie, who fired a six-under 66.
The duo finished at 11-under 277, a distant four back, but both now appear to be locks to make the European Ryder Cup team in the fall.
Peter Lawrie, no relation to Paul, posted a one-under 71 and took fourth at minus-eight. Three-time winner this year Branden Grace had a two-under 70 and came in fifth at seven-under 281, which was one better than Richard Sterne, whose one-under 71 on Sunday gave him sixth.
There was one point early in the final round when things were close.
Donald made a mistake at the par-five fourth, which led to a bogey. Rose, who bogeyed two, but birdied three, birdied the fourth and the two were tied at 10-under par.
Two holes later, Donald sank a 15-foot birdie putt and that's as close as anyone would get on Sunday. Donald made it two in a row with an 18-footer at No. 7 and his 30-foot birdie putt at the 10th gave him a three-stroke cushion.
"I needed to settle down a little bit," Donald said on TV. "This is a big week and I certainly felt some of the pressure in going out as the leader and trying to defend. After the fourth, I didn't give him (Rose) another hole where he was teeing off first, other than the 18th."
Both players birdied the par-five 12th and Rose couldn't save par from a buried lie in a bunker at 16. Donald poured in a six-foot birdie putt at the same hole to take a five-shot lead with two to play.
Rose got a stroke back with a birdie at the par-five 17th, and Paul Lawrie birdied his last two to get in at 11-under par.
Donald parred 17 and 18 and it was back to No. 1.
"To go a whole year and still be No. 1, it means I'm doing the right things," Donald said. "The hard work is paying off."
He's been No. 1, won the tour's flagship event twice, and last year, became the first player in history to win both the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles in the same year.
There's only one thing left.
"The obvious answer there is win majors," Donald said in his TV interview. "I feel like I'm getting closer. Every time I have a success like this, it adds to my confidence. These victories are key to bringing that confidence to majors."
Ernie Els, who apologized for his tirade about European Tour officials and grounds crew on Saturday, shot an even-par 72 and shared seventh with Marcel Siem (69) and Francesco Molinari (71). They finished at five-under par.