27 May Double delight for Donald
Luke Donald returned to World Number One in style by retaining his BMW PGA Championship title at Wentworth Club. Donald’s sixth victory in the last 15 months makes him only the third player – Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are the others – to win The European Tour’s flagship event two years in a row. After being caught by Justin Rose four holes into the final round, the 34 year old put his foot on the accelerator to go clear once more. Once he had gone three clear with a 25 foot putt at the short 10th, Donald, the most reliable player in the game right now with the possible exception of America’s man of the moment Jason Dufner, never looked like losing. Playing with supreme confidence, he ended up taking the first prize of €750,000 by four strokes from Rose and former Open Champion Paul Lawrie with an accomplished closing 68 and 15 under par total of 273.
Only a top-eight finish had been required for him to move to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking for the fourth time once McIlroy had missed the cut on Friday. After requiring a play-off to dethrone Lee Westwood 12 months ago this time Donald never looked like being caught down the closing straight on another gloriously sunny afternoon. That was the start of Donald’s first reign, one which was to continue until this March, but he and McIlroy have now changed places six times since then.
They next meet at the Memorial tournament in Ohio starting on Thursday, but it is the US Open Championship in San Francisco on June 14 that his sights are now on. Play like this and a first Major could well be his. This was his first successful defence of a title and he said: “What a great one to do it at. This is our biggest event on The European Tour. “To come and defend and get back to number one is very sweet indeed.
“I was just trying to keep my head down and plug away. I was swinging well and I’ve putted well all week. “I just needed to settle down a bit. This is a big week and I felt some of the pressure. “After the fourth I didn’t give him (Rose) another hole where he was teeing off first other than the 18th. I got the job done.
“I take a great amount of satisfaction. It means I am doing the right things – the hard work is paying off and I have a great team around me.” Asked what was next on his wish list he said: “Obviously win Majors. I feel I am getting closer. Every time I win it adds to my confidence. “These victories are key to bringing that confidence into the Majors.”
Lawrie hit a best-of-the-day 66 to catch Rose and the 43 year old Scot is now closing in on securing a return to The Ryder Cup after a gap of 13 years. Rose, round in 69, would have been second on his own but for missing a five foot birdie putt on the last, but with a World Golf Championships win earlier this season he feels it could be a special season too. As for the difference in the final round he said: “Luke’s putter really. He buried a lot of putts in the middle of the round and there were no loose shots coming down the stretch.”
Rose, two behind at the start, was level when he birdied the long fourth and Donald three-putted for bogey. In went putts of 14 and 18 feet at the sixth and seventh, though, and then came what seemed at the time like the killer blow on the tenth. The gap went to five at the 16th when Donald sank a nine footer and Rose, plugged in sand for two, bogeyed.
First Lawrie and then Rose cut the difference to four, but it was all too late to revive their title hopes with Donald in such imperious form. Rose, so close now to taking a place in the OWGR’s top five for the first time, would certainly have settled for second on Thursday. He feared he might have to pull out just before the start because of dizziness and spent an hour with a doctor.
Lawrie, who reached a high of 29th in the world back in 2000, could now move back into the top 30 only 14 months after he stood 272nd – and for the first time he can call himself Scotland’s top player. When he won The Open Championship from 159th in the world in 1999, Colin Montgomerie was riding high at fifth in the OWGR. He is up to second in The Ryder Cup points race and said: “You’re never unhappy when you shoot 66, but really it should have been a few less.
“When you get on a bit of a run the confidence goes up and right now it’s probably never been better.”