England’s Luke Donald came through a four-man playoff to win the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Florida. The victory pushed Donald back to Number 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Donald fired a superb closing round of 66 to record a 72-hole total of 13-under-par. That was good enough to match the number already posted in the clubhouse by Robert Garrigus who finished with a scintillating 64.
On an incredible final day when as many as a dozen players looked to have a chance of victory, Sang-Moon Bae of South Korea was the next to finish on the 13-under-par mark. The 25-year-old holed a clutch par putt on the 72nd green to match Donald and Garrigus.
Although others threatened, Jim Furyk was the only other man who managed to post a 13-under total. He had a chance to win it on the final green with a testing downhill, sloping putt. It narrowly missed, however, and he tapped in for par to join the playoff.
The first extra hole was on the tricky 18th. Sang-Moon Bae hit first and found the fairway before Garrigus, the longest hitter on tour, sent a monster drive down the centre of the fairway. Furyk narrowly avoided the left hand bunker and Donald found the rough to the right.
It was the Englishman to play first and it looked as though he would do well to find the putting surface from a tricky lie. But he produced an awesome, towering shot that narrowly cleared the bunker short of the green then released to finish some eight feet short of the pin.
Neither Furyk nor Bae played such good shots and were left with long birdie tries. Garrigus then played an excellent approach from just over 100 yards out. He left himself inches outside Donald.
Both Furyk and Bae missed their chances and that left Garrigus, then Donald to try. The American’s putt brushed the edge of the hole but refused to drop. Donald, whose putting had looked solid all day, made a good stroke and his birdie try caught just enough of the left side to fall. The title was his and he was Number 1 once again.
“I think people thought that my last year was maybe a little bit more of a, well not quite a, fluke, but I don’t think many people thought I could do that all over again this year,” Donald said. “Hopefully, I can prove them wrong.”
The four-man playoff could have featured even more players. Ken Duke missed a short putt on the 17th that proved to be costly. Scott Piercy, who had earlier posted a wonderful final round of 62, missed a chance for birdie on the final green as did Jeff Overton.
The most heartbreaking story, however, came from Ernie Els. The South African had a short putt on the 16th to get to 15-under-par. He missed that then bogeyed the 17th hole. Despite that error, he needed just a par at the last to join the playoff. His approach ended off the left edge of the green and he chipped up to three feet. But he pulled the putt past the left edge and missed out by a stroke.
It was a double blow for Els who needed a win to secure a start at the Masters. Now 62nd on the World Ranking, he’ll now likely need to win either at Bay Hill or the Houston Open to play at Augusta.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “I’m pretty hot now, and it’s difficult to talk with a straight head here. 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.”
Innisbrook Resort, Pam Harbor, Florida
Mar 15-18, purse $5,500,000 par 71
1 Luke Donald (Eng) 67 68 70 66 271 $990,000
T2 Sang-Moon Bae (Kor) 69 66 68 68 271 $410,667
T2 Jim Furyk (USA) 66 70 66 69 271 $410,667
T2 Robert Garrigus (USA) 67 72 68 64 271 $410,667
T5 Ken Duke (USA) 68 67 69 68 272 $193,188
T5 Ernie Els (RSA) 70 67 68 67 272 $193,188
T5 Jeff Overton (USA) 68 69 69 66 272 $193,188
T5 Scott Piercy (USA) 69 68 73 62 272 $193,188
9 Bo Van Pelt (USA) 70 68 69 66 273 $159,500
T10 Jason Dufner (USA) 66 66 71 71 274 $132,000
T10 Matt Kuchar (USA) 73 67 69 65 274 $132,000
T10 Webb Simpson (USA) 68 69 69 68 274 $132,000
T10 Kevin Streelman (USA) 68 69 69 68 274 $132,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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