LUKE DONALD has reclaimed his world No.1 golf ranking with a clinical birdie on the first playoff hole to win the 2012 Transitions Championship in Florida.
Donald beat third-round co-leader Jim Furyk, fellow American Robert Garrigus and South Korean Sang-Moon Bae in a four-man playoff at the Copperhead Course in Palm Harbour.
It was a typically cool display by the Englishman, hitting a seven iron from the right rough to land just over a bunker and trickle to just six and a half feet from the pin.
Donald took back his number one spot taken by Rory McIlroy just two weeks back. McIlroy, off preparing for his US Masters challenge, wasn’t a competitor this week and the battle between the two is obviously far from over.
“I certainly was a lot more nervous the first time, thinking about trying to get to No. 1,” Donald said after his win. “This certainly wasn’t my focus this time around. I was just focused on trying to win the tournament and it all works out.”
Donald posted a final-round five-under 66 to get to the 13-under playoff mark and join Garrigus (64), Bae (68) and Furyk (69).
Earlier, it seemed veteran South African Ernie Els had the tournament in the bag when he led by a stroke with two holes to play.
Els, needing the win to gain a start in the 2012 Masters, missed a five foot birdie putt on the sixteenth and then a four foot par putt on the 17th to become the fifth player on 13-under. Another missed putt on the last put him out of the playoff and maybe out of the year’s first major.
A clearly agitated Els afterwards didn’t take too kindly to a couple of inane questions by an American television interviewer.
Later, the man whose long career should garner him a lot more respect, said: “I’m pretty hot now, and it’s difficult to talk with a straight head here. If I take stock, I think I’m playing good golf, and I’ve got to head into the next couple of weeks trying to get a win.”
Els will first attempt that this week when he competes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which will also be the scene of Tiger Woods’ return from injury.
(It will also highly likely be the scene of lots of “Mr Palmer” this, and “Mr Palmer” that, by the American television presenters. Perhaps they could try a “Mr Els” as well and not just a “What happened there?” question if a drive goes astray and misses a fairway.)
As for Australia’s interests, Geoff Ogilvy will no doubt be pleased overall with his tournament and his final round 5-under 66.
Ogilvy, who flagged before the tournament he was getting back into some form as the Masters approached, finished five behind the leaders on 8-under tied in 16th place.
A stroke further back was Jason Day with encouraging rounds of 69, 72, 67, 69, while the next best Aussie was Greg Chalmers on 6-under. Early tournament performer John Senden will be disappointed with his final round 73 to finish at 5-under while Robert Allenby (71) finished on 3-under.2012 Transitions Championship Final Results