Donald wins Disney, money title

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- He entered the tournament last Friday with one thought in mind: win.

Luke Donald did just that.

The Englishman birdied the first six holes of the back nine on Sunday en route to an eight-under 64. That helped him earn a two-stroke victory at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Donald ended at 17-under-par 271. The victory was his second on the PGA Tour in 2011 and the fourth of his career.

With the $846,000 first-place paycheck, Donald overtook Webb Simpson for the PGA Tour money title as well. Donald holds a healthy lead on the European Tour Order of Merit. If he can maintain that margin, Donald will be the first player to top both lists in the same season.

"That was tough. After the eighth hole, it wasn't looking good," Donald said in a television interview. "Fortunately, I timed it pretty well to go on that run. On the back nine, Sunday, when everything was on the line. It feels pretty good to be able to do it when it really mattered."

Justin Leonard, who shared the third-round lead with Kevin Chappell, parred the final hole to shoot one-under 71 and take second place at minus-15.

Chappell managed an even-par 72 to share third place at 14-under-par 274 with Sunghoon Kang (68) and Tom Pernice, Jr. (69) on the Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort.

Three of those players have more to celebrate. Leonard, Kang and Pernice were three of the four players, along with Billy Mayfair, to move inside the top 125 on the money list and keep their PGA Tour card for 2012.

That means four others fell out of the top 125, but only two of them lost their tour card. Bobby Gates and Roland Thatcher both fell out of the top 125.

Gates bogeyed his final hole to post 71 and finish in a tie for 46th, but he slid to 126th on the money list. Thatcher missed the cut and dropped from No. 120 to No. 127.

Tiger Woods and Stuart Appleby also fell outside the top 125, but are exempt for next season. Woods is a lifetime member of the Tour, while Appleby won The Greenbrier last year and is exempt through 2012.

D.J. Trahan, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, poured in a 22-foot birdie putt on his final hole, the ninth. That gave him enough money to finish 125th on the money list.

Donald entered the final round five strokes off the lead, and one stroke behind Simpson, who entered the week as the tour's leading money winner. Donald flew out of the gate with birdies on one and two.

After a pair of pars, Donald bogeyed the fifth before converting birdie chances on six and seven. He tripped to another bogey on the eighth and parred the ninth to make the turn at 11-under.

Not only was he four off the lead, but Donald had fallen two shots behind Simpson, who bogeyed the first. Simpson birdied the fourth, then ran off four consecutive birdies from the seventh to soar into second place at minus-14.

But, the birdie on the 10th was the last of the day for Simpson. He parred seven of the last eight holes and bogeyed the 15th to slip back to minus-13.

"It was good day. I fought hard and made a nice stretch of birdies there in the middle," Simpson said in a televised interview. "Playing against the best player in the world, I expected him to play well this week, and especially today. Then he made six birdies in a row. I didn't quite expect that."

Donald took command around the turn. He matched Simpson's birdie at the 10th. The 33-year-old made it two in a row as he sank an eight-foot birdie try on the 11th.

The Englishman converted a birdie effort from just inside five feet on the 12th and made it four in a row with a five-footer for birdie at No. 13.

All of a sudden, Donald was tied for the lead at 15-under par. And he wasn't finished either.

Donald sank an 18-foot birdie try on the par-five 14th to grab the lead. His tee shot at 15 stopped 45 feet from the hole. No worries. Donald poured that putt in for his sixth birdie in a row.

"I got some revenge on that hole," said Donald of the 14th, where he had a double-bogey on Saturday. "Obviously, 15 was a bonus."

That remarkable surge gave Donald a two-stroke lead and he parred the final three holes.

"This was a tremendous year for me. I think I answered a lot of critics questions, this year," Donald stated on TV. "Coming here knowing I had to win, and coming up with the goods when I needed to, it's very, very satisfying."

Several players, including Leonard, Chappell and Nick O'Hern all could have caught Donald, but failed to do so.

O'Hern bogeyed his final two holes to slide back to 13-under.

Leonard, who was chasing his 13th PGA Tour title, birdied the ninth and 10th to move to 15-under. However, he parred the final eight holes. He had four birdie chances inside 20 feet in those final eight holes, but failed to convert any of them.

One of the better putters on tour, Leonard had 30 putts in the final round.

Chappell moved to minus-15 with a birdie on the 14th. He was two back with four to play. He parred three of the last four and bogeyed the other to share third place.

NOTES: Donald also won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year, but this was his first stroke-play win in the United States since he claimed the 2006 Honda Classic...Donald and Simpson were paired together for all four rounds...This was just the second time since 1990 that the money list lead changed hands the final week of the year...This was the last official event of the year, but next week is the first unofficial event as Ben Crane is slated to defend his title at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia.


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