Players in awe over Donald's comeback
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Editor's note: For the complete money list, click here.
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Now, that was entertainment.
Says those who make this PGA Tour competition their livelihood and understand the pressures and challenges that come with the territory. They are the best judges of what Luke Donald pulled off Sunday at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic and they couldn’t have dished out greater praise.
Adding the tournament at the last minute to try and win so as to capture the PGA Tour money title, Donald looked deader than the NBA – a bogey at the eighth hole pushed him into a share of 10th, a whopping five off the lead. Even worse, he was two strokes behind the guy he was trying to unseat atop the money list, Webb Simpson.
“Then we started to hear roars,” Kevin Chappell said. “There weren’t too many leaderboards, but we knew something was happening.”
That “something” was a Donald run that changed the entire complexion of the tournament and the chase for the money title. With six straight birdies starting at the 10th, Donald roared into a two-stroke lead. It was that final birdie, a massive 45-footer at the par-3 15th, that caused such noise that up on the 18th green, Gary Woodland looked up, saw that Donald was at 17 under and he shook his head and laughed.
“It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen,” Woodland said. “He’s had a couple weeks off, and he comes here to play, to do one thing. And he does it? I mean that’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.”
Having come into the week a whopping $363,029 behind Simpson, Donald needed to finish no worse than T-2 and then hope Simpson was no better than eighth. So clearly the picture didn’t look very good for the Englishman as he turned to the back, for he was T-10 and Simpson T-4.
Still, Trevor Immelman felt just by teeing it up this week, Donald had impacted the buzz surrounding this tournament.
“Just as Tiger Woods’s appearance at the Frys.com a few weeks (ago) created a buzz, Luke coming here was great for the tournament,” Immelman said.
So when Donald completed the daunting challenge by shooting 30 on the back for a round of 64 and a victory to blow past Simpson and take the money title by a mere $35,861, Immelman shook his head. Yes, he was impressed, but he said Donald had already done something earlier this year that he figured he’d never see.
“I just never thought it was possible for someone other than Tiger Woods to be No. 1 in the world, not in my career,” Immelman said. “But becoming No. 1 (as Donald has) is an incredible achievement.”
Woodland isn’t sure people quite comprehend Donald’s mission, but players will.
“When someone comes to do something, when he has to do something – and with the way Webb was playing, he had to win. He wasn’t going to do it by finishing second.”
Woodland paused, shook his head in admiration, and smiled.
“That’s what sports is about.”