Donald supplies the magic with win at Disney
Monday, October 24, 2011
Editor's note: For the complete money list, click here.
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Five things you need to know from a frantic final round of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, the last full-field event of the season on the PGA Tour:
1. King Luke: Luke Donald was four shots back of the lead when he made the turn Sunday at Disney. Then he went on an epic back-nine run, making six consecutive birdies on the Magnolia Course to seize control of the tournament, the money title and, most likely, the Player of the Year award.
“Obviously I came here and the goal was to win; nothing was really going to be good enough other than that,” said Donald, who finished at 17-under 271, two shots ahead of Justin Leonard.
“I think this is probably one of the most satisfying wins just because of that. It was kind of do or die.”
Improbably, Donald now is in line to become the first player to win the money title on both the PGA and European tours in the same season. He has a comfortable lead over Rory McIlroy in Europe (€1,312,823), but may skip next month’s HSBC Champions because his wife, Diane, is expecting the couple’s second child. On the PGA Tour, he edged Webb Simpson by $335,861 despite playing seven fewer events.
Donald entered Disney for the first time since 2003 for the sole purpose of chasing down Simpson. That task became increasingly more difficult, however, when Simpson lost a playoff last week at the McGladrey Classic. Trailing by $363,029, and needing no worse than a T-2 this week, Donald pulled into a share of the lead on the 12th hole, then poured it on with three more birdies coming in. He shot 30 on the back nine, fired a final-round 64 and won a PGA Tour stroke-play event for the first time since 2006.
“Knowing I had to do it, and then being able to do it, is very, very special,” Donald said.
What does this mean for the Player of the Year race? It likely swings the vote in Donald’s favor. He now has two victories, tied for the most on Tour this season. He won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. He won the money title. He is the No. 1 player in the world.
Said Donald: “I think I’ve answered all the questions thrown at me.”
Simpson, however, said he still would vote for himself.
“You know, he’s played great all year,” he said. “I think on paper our years have been pretty similar. ... It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I didn’t think it would come down to this week, but maybe it will.”
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2. Bubble watch: The pressure to stay inside the top 125 on the money list can cause strange reactions. Some can’t sleep at night. Others become ornery. James Driscoll, this year’s bubble boy, went to a new extreme, admitting Sunday afternoon that he had vomited four times before the final round.
OK, so it wasn’t entirely nerves. Instead, Driscoll said it likely was the result of something he ate - a “funky” lobster sandwich for lunch on Saturday, perhaps - but the fact that he was projected to finish 121st on the money list probably didn’t help.
“After I threw up I felt much better, at least,” Driscoll said, smiling.
He didn’t peek at the projected money list until Saturday evening because, he said, “I couldn’t not look for another day.” What he saw was unsettling, sure, but it also inspired hope because he had hit the ball poorly the first three rounds, despite being tied for 30th.
In the final round, he made four birdies on the back nine to shoot 68 and tie for 12th. But, more importantly, he finished No. 114 on the money list.
Said Driscoll: “I’m just glad it’s over.”
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3. Agony of defeat: An hour after Driscoll kept his card, Steven Bowditch stumbled out of the scoring hut behind the 18th hole, now projected to finish outside the top 125. Even worse, he revealed that he had played this week with a broken bone in his right hand, an injury sustained when a valet attendant slammed the door on it last week in Sea Island.
Had he not been playing to keep his Tour card, Bowditch said he would have withdrawn. In fact, doctors recommended putting his hand in a cast for four weeks. But that wasn’t feasible -- he was No. 135 on the money list entering Disney.
So he played, shooting rounds of 67-71-68-72 to tie for 16th. He nearly withdrew after an iron shot on Saturday, when pain surged up his right arm. But at one point Sunday, he moved within four shots of the lead before mixing three birdies with four bogeys coming home.
“I just didn’t have any (club)face control,” Bowditch said. “I don’t like making $60,000 and losing my job.”
No player, however, suffered as cruel a fate as Bobby Gates. Having entered Disney at No. 124 on the money list, he three-putted from 40 feet on his final hole (No. 9) tie for 46th. But he only dropped out of the top 125 after D.J. Trahan rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt on his last hole to finish $1,431 ahead of Gates.
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4. Kodak moment: There was no $1 million playoff this year for the Kodak Challenge, but that didn’t stop Bill Lunde from sticking around until Sunday night despite missing the cut at Disney.
At 19 under, Lunde won the yearlong competition that rewards the player with the best cumulative score on 18 out of 30 predetermined holes from various Tour events. The only players with a chance to catch Lunde were Cameron Tringale and Fabian Gomez, who needed to eagle the par-4 17th hole on the Magnolia Course.
As Tringale approached the 17th tee Sunday, Lunde texted a Tour media official: “Are the tees back today?”
The response: Yes, the tees were back -- now playing 485 yards -- but the hole location was in the front. Both Tringale and Gomez made par on Sunday.
It’s a much-needed windfall for Lunde, who has earned $2,553,207 in three full seasons on Tour. In 2011, he earned $639,548 in 28 events.
Last year, Troy Merritt won the $1 million bonus in a playoff, then promised to trade in his wife’s Toyota Corolla for a Lexus SUV.
Asked what he would do with his newfound cash, Lunde, 35, smiled and said: “No immediate plans. But it’s kind of like winning the lottery - you want to buy something crazy.”
Lunde finished 130th on the tour money list but he needn’t worry: He is exempt for next season by virtue of his victory at the 2010 Turning Stone Championship.
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5. Short shots: A fifth alternate at the start of the week, Tom Pernice Jr. tied for third at Disney and clinched his PGA Tour card for 2012. Not bad for a guy who splits his time on the Champions circuit. The 52-year-old Pernice shot a final-round 69 to finish at No. 121 on the money list. ... Sunghoon Kang also sneaked into the top 125 on the strength of his joint third finish at Disney. ... Third-round co-leader Justin Leonard finished his worst season on Tour with a bright spot. He finished solo second, two shots behind Donald, which netted him $507,600 and moved him to 91st on the money list.