Back-on-track Donald hails Stricker

Luke Donald has paid tribute to Steve Stricker for holding his nerve and winning the Northern Trust Open.

Luke Donald has paid tribute to Steve Stricker for holding his nerve and winning the Northern Trust Open.
Donald shot a sizzling final-round 66 at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, but it was not enough to prevent overnight leader Stricker from holding on for a two-shot victory.
The American got the job done with a one-under 70, having led by six shots after 54 holes, and his win was enough to promote him to the world number two ranking at the expense of defending champion Phil Mickelson, who had needed a top-six finish to stay second behind Tiger Woods.
Mickelson could only manage a tie for 45th after a closing 73 – a year after reeling Stricker in for a second title in as many years at Riviera.
The victory for Stricker continued a remarkable turnaround for the American since losing his PGA Tour card in 2004.
He won the tour’s Comeback Player of the Year award in 2006, won three titles in 2009 and after three tournaments this year he has yet to shoot over par.
“If you look at his consistency and how much he’s won, then I think it’s deserved,” Donald said of Stricker’s new ranking.
“It’s a great testament to his will. I can’t remember what he got to in the World Rankings, 300 or 400 or something.
“To come back from that, it’s a tough game mentally when you’re not playing well, and to break that and come back and be where he is right now, that’s great going.
“He’s obviously found it, and he’s worked hard, and he has a lot of belief in himself now.
“I think Steve is the nicest guy in the world, too, so it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Donald had been chasing his first PGA Tour title since the 2006 Honda Classic but he was pleased with his effort in making a contest of it with Stricker.
“I felt like I played nicely,” he said. “I hit a lot of quality shots, felt very much in control and I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of good looks at birdies.
“If I got really hot with the putter, I could have maybe caught Steve. He played nicely coming down the stretch, and I think he was a deserved winner. But at least I gave him a little run for his money.”
Donald said he could take plenty of positives from his performance at his third tournament of the year, having missed the cut on his seasonal debut in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for 48th place at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
“I’m just trying to hit good targets and hit good shots,” Donald said. “When you’re in control of the golf ball you can be a bit more aggressive.
“Looking at my game in Hawaii, which was not very good at all tee to green, I felt good about my game this week, just the fact that I felt like I knew where I was going pretty much.
“That’s a big step for me and just shows me that I’m working on the right things.”