Donald wins WGC Match Play crown

Luke Donald has beaten new World No 1 Martin Kaymer 3&2 in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

Luke Donald has beaten the new World No 1 Martin Kaymer 3&2 in the all-Europe final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

This after seeing the tenacious German hit back from being 3-down after just five holes to square the match by the turn at the Ritz Plaza Golf Club’s ultra-long desert course at Dove Mountain in Arizona on Sunday.

With this prestigious victory the rock-solid Englishman, not only won his first title on US soil in five years – and this against a field that included the World’s top 60 golfers in one of only four World Golf Championship (WGC) tournaments – he also rocketed from ninth in the World Rankings to bump Tiger Woods out of the No 3 spot.

Donald almost overwhelmed by his victory said afterwards: “I can’t describe it – I’m close to tears.

“It feels amazing. I’ve put a lot of work in over the last five years and it’s nice to see it pay off.

“You always have doubts and the wheels were coming off a bit, so the up and down on the 10th was huge and to have three birdies in the last six holes was special.

“Hopefully it will open the gates. I’m not a modern-day player because I don’t hit it that far and that makes it harder for me, but this is great win and I hope there are more to come.

“This is a win for a lot of people and means a lot. It’s also a good (first) birthday present for my little daughter.”

During his long, barren spell in the States one American writer even coined the term “Luke Donald Disease” to sum up the bunch of British and Irish players who at the time appeared to be unable to finish things off and pocket titles on a regular basis.

But last year Ian Poulter, the defending champion here this week, was followed to victory by Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose (twice) and Lee Westwood and of course Graeme McDowell with his US Open triumph and Kaymer with his victory at the US PGA.

Now Donald has kept the run going.

Kaymer was trying to make it five wins in his last 11 starts, a run that began with his PGA Championship heroics, but although he failed to hit back this time as he had in his semi-final against Bubba Watson, the German had the ample compensation of his rise to the top of the rankings – and a cheque for £525,080

In the all-American third place play-off, meanwhile, Matt Kuchar beat Bubba Watson 2&1 in a light-hearted affair.

On the day, though, Donald was once again the standout as he maintained his remarkable record of never being behind in a match in the Arizona desert this week.

The snow had melted when they teed off, although dark clouds on the horizon continued to look ominous and sleet began falling when the championship match reached the third green and play was stopped when sleet covered the fourth fairway.

“Do we have to keep playing?” Kaymer asked chief referee Mark Russell.

Kaymer, who purchased a snood to wear around his neck, pulled it up over his mouth and for a moment looked like a real Western gunslinger

Donald, meanwhile, took out his blue-and-white umbrella and crouched beneath it.

After about 10 minutes, when the fairways turned from white back to green, play resumed with the German driving into the desert scrub at the next, and after taking a penalty drop, saw a bogey send him three down with Donald getting up and down from a greenside bunker.

Kaymer had his first success when Donald three-putted the short sixth and a birdie on the par-five eighth narrowed the gap to one.

The match was all-square at the turn after Kaymer won the ninth with a bogey when Donald came up short in the scrub and ran up a seven for a double bogey.

Donald did well to save a half at the next after finding more trouble and Kaymer was favourite to take the 11th as well, but missed from six feet after his opponent had holed from nine.

One down again as a result, the 26-year-old strayed into sand on the 219-yard next and by bogeying the hole. He was two down with six to go.

The next two holes were halved as Donald closed in on the victory, which was handed to him on a plate by Kaymer’s miss from three feet at the 15th.

The Englishman then found the heart of the green with his tee shot at the next and when Kaymer missed his long birdie attempt, Donald had two putts to win – and he took them with both hands.

It gives the 33-year-old a cheque for $1.4m, a first WGC title and his first win Stateside since the 2006 Honda Classic – where he will tee it up next week.

And with Kaymer first, Lee Westwood now down to second and Graeme McDowell fourth, Europe holds the top four positions for the first time since 1992 when Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros topped the rankings.