Luke back on top of the World

Luke Donald is back on top of the World after winning a drama-packed Transitions Championship on Sunday.

Luke Donald is back on top of the World after holding out on a drama-packed Sunday and winning a four-man play-off at the Transitions Championship at Palm Harbour in Florida.

The 34-year-old Englishman, who closed with a super-solid 66 to finish at 13-under, beat Jim Furyk (69), fellow American Robert Garrigus (64), and Korean young gun Sang-moon Bae (Kor) (68) at the first extra-hole of the play-off to claim his fifth career victory on the US PGA Tour on a day when Ernie Els came in from the cold to get among the log-jam of front runners who flirted with victory.

Els led by a shot at the 15th, lost the chance to go two clear when he missed a near sitter at the 16th and then lost the plot and bogeyed each of the last two holes to throw away a great chance of a victory that would have hoisted him high enough on the World Ranking list to qualify for next month’s Masters.

“It’s going to be tough. I’m pretty hot (under the collar) right now, and it’s difficult to talk with a straight head,” a clearly disappointed Els said.

“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.”

Instead it was Donald who got the win that enabled him to make the week’s big move in the rankings, his come-from-behind victory enabling him to take back the World No 1 slot he lost to Rory McIlroy only two weekends ago.

A run of five birdies in the first 11 holes on Sunday moved the Englishman into contention before he consolidated with seven successive pars to make sure of a 16th top-10 finish in his last 22 events and to get a shot at the play-off which he then won when he nailed a birdie putt from less than seven feet that briefly looked as if it might just lip out.

Garrigus, who had finished with a 64 two hours before the final group, narrowly missed his birdie putt here from a similar distance while Bae and Furyk both missed much longer, downhill putts.

“I had a great day,” said a beaming Garrigus.

“If you would have told me I would have been in a playoff this morning when I woke up, I would have pretty much told you were crazy.”

Donald, whose victory made it three European victories in a row in America after McIlroy triumphed at the Honda Classic and Justin Rose did likewise at the Cadillac Championship, admitted afterwards that the win has come as a much needed morale booster ahead of the Masters.

The laid back Englishman said: “I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in my career but this is perfect preparation. I’ve got two weeks off now and can look forward to Augusta.

“I certainly was a lot more nervous about getting to number one the first time. This time it wasn’t my focus – I was focused on winning the tournament and it all worked out.”

Donald first became World No 1 last year when he beat compatriot Lee Westwood in a playoff and stayed there for 40 weeks until he was passed by McIlroy two weeks ago after the 22-year-old Northern Irishman won the Honda Classic.

The pair are not due to play again until next month’s Masters, the first major of 2012, starting at Augusta National on April 5.

“There might be a little bit more hype around me now,” Donald said. “But … I’ve been through that. I still think Rory and obviously Tiger (Woods) will be getting a lot of the attention.”

McIlroy did not play the Transitions, but was among the first to congratulate Donald, tweeting his Ryder Cup team mate within minutes of his victory.

“Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats @LukeDonald! Impressive performance!” McIlroy wrote.

(US unless stated, par 71)
271 Luke Donald (Eng) 67 68 70 66 (Donald won at the first play-off hole), Jim Furyk 66 70 66 69, Robert Garrigus 67 72 68 64, Sang-moon Bae (Kor) 69 66 68 68
272 Jeff Overton 68 69 69 66, Ernie Els (Rsa) 70 67 68 67, Ken Duke 68 67 69 68, Scott Piercy 69 68 73 62
273 Bo Van Pelt 70 68 69 66
274 Jason Dufner 66 66 71 71, Matt Kuchar 73 67 69 65, Kevin Streelman 68 69 69 68, Webb Simpson 68 69 69 68