Donald romps to Disney win

2011-10-24 06:52

Lake Buena Vista - World No. 1 Luke Donald began the back nine with six birdies to win the US PGA's season-ending event on Sunday and capture the American money title in his quest for a historic double.

Donald, trying to become the first golfer with US and European money titles in the same year, fired a final-round eight-under par 64 to finish 72 holes on 17-under 271 at the $4.7 million Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

"This is one of the most satisfying wins of my career," Donald said. "Everything was on the line. I'm thrilled and over the moon."

The 33-year-old Englishman, who began the day five strokes adrift, had a two-shot edge after his stunning birdie streak, which was capped with an astounding 45-footer at the par-3 15th to serve notice he would not be denied.

"I timed it pretty well to do that when everything was on the line," Donald said. "Hadn't really gotten on a run all week. What better time to do it than the back nine on Sunday? It's nice to be able to do it under pressure."

Donald was forced to wait for three hopefuls in the last groups to finish securing a victory and the money crown.

US rookie Kevin Chappell made bogey at 16 to falter, Australian Nick O'Hern took bogey at 17 to stumble, and 1997 British Open champion Justin Leonard missed his bid at eagle from the 18th fairway to ensure Donald's triumph.

"I was able to hit some good shots, made some putts when I needed to," said Donald. "It wasn't as easy as it looks."

The British star beat US veteran Leonard by two shots with Chappell, fellow American Tom Pernice and South Korean Sunghoon Kang sharing third on 274. Kang and Pernice barely kept their US tour status for 2012 with the results.

"I'm just dreaming right now," Kang said.

In the end, Donald took the $846,000 top prize to finish on $6,683,214 and defeat American Webb Simpson by $335,861. Simpson had passed Donald last week for the lead.

Donald leads second-place Rory McIlroy in the European Order of Merit by 1.6 million Euros with six weeks remaining.

Simpson, who played alongside Donald all four rounds in a head-to-head duel, finished with a 69 to stand on 275, sharing sixth. Simpson would have had to finish alone in second to deny Donald the title.

Donald, who also captured the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average, likely secured the PGA Player of the Year title awarded in a players' balloting.

"I answered a lot of critics' questions about me today," Donald said.

The only other time the money title changed hands at the final event was in 1996 when Tom Lehman passed Phil Mickelson.

Donald's only prior US triumph in 2011 came at the World Golf Championships Match-Play Championship. His only other American titles were at the 2006 Honda Classic and 2002 Southern Farm Bureau Classic.

Donald's season has also included two European Tour triumphs, the BMW PGA Championship and the Scottish Open.

With wife Diane due to give birth to their second child in less than two weeks, Donald began the last round five strokes off the lead only to charge from behind.

Donald opened with back-to-back birdies from four feet at the first and six feet at the second. After stumbling back with a bogey on the fifth, he birdied the par-3 sixth and par-4 seventh to reach 12-under.

Donald fell back with a bogey at the par-5 eighth, finding a fairway bunker from the right rough and missing a 23-foot par putt, falling four adrift.

"I thought my chances might have gone then," Donald said. "I didn't play the par-5s very well this week. After the eighth hole it wasn't looking good."

But the drama was only starting.

Simpson birdied four holes in a row finishing at the 10th hole to reach 14-under, only to have Donald answer with six birdies in a row starting at 10.

"I fought hard, made a nice stretch of birdies," Simpson said. "He made six birdies in a row. I didn't expect that. That's just the way it goes."

Donald birdied the par-5 10th, sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th and dropped a five-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th to reach 14-under, matching Simpson for second.

At the par-4 13th, Simpson lipped out on a six-foot birdie putt and Donald then sank a five-foot birdie putt to seize a share of the lead.

On the par-5 14th, Simpson missed a 22-foot birdie attempt slightly right of the hole but gave a perfect read on the putt to Donald, who followed with an 18-foot birdie putt to grab a one-shot lead over Leonard.

Donald capped the run on 15 with his 45-foot birdie and three closing pars were enough to keep his rivals at bay.

Leading scores on Sunday from the US PGA Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World (USA unless noted, par-72):

271 - Luke Donald (GBR)

273 - Justin Leonard

274 - Tom Pernice, Sunghoon Kang (KOR), Kevin Chappell

275 - John Rollins, Webb Simpson, Trevor Immelman (RSA) , Nick O'Hern (AUS) , Billy Mayfair

276 - Kris Blanks

277 - James Driscoll , Gary Woodland , Kevin Kisner, Henrik Stenson (SWE)

278 - Greg Chalmers (AUS), Steven Bowditch (AUS)

279 - David Hearn (CAN), Alexandre Rocha (BRA), Bi-o Kim (KOR)

280 - Ryuji Imada (JPN), Charlie Wi (KOR), Nathan Green (AUS), John Senden (AUS)

282 - Retief Goosen (RSA)

283 - Jarrod Lyle (AUS), Fabian Gomez (ARG)

285 - Arjun Atwal (IND)