Donald back at No. 1 after Transitions win

Luke Donald

Luke Donald

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Hilton Head, SC - Harbour Town Golf Links

12:26:18 AM ET. 04/17/2014




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Luke Donald returned to No. 1 in the world the same way he got there the first time.

Donald rallied from a three-shot deficit Sunday at the Transitions with a 5-under 66, then won a four-man playoff on the first extra hole with a shot out of the rough to 6 feet and a birdie putt that curled in the left side of the cup.

He gave a big uppercut with his right fist to celebrate the end of a wild day at Innisbrook — and a devastating finish for Ernie Els.

Els was among eight players who were tied for the lead at some point in the final round, and he had a one-shot lead going into the closing stretch known as the "Snake Pit" at the Copperhead course.

The Big Easy missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and then badly missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole that caused him to miss the playoff by one shot. He likely has to win in the next two weeks to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1993.

Donald ended Rory McIlroy's two-week stay atop the world ranking.

He first reached No. 1 in the world by winning a playoff over Lee Westwood at Wentworth last May. This required more work as Donald had to beat Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Bae Sang-Moon in sudden death.

Furyk, who closed with a 69, had an awkward lie just short of the bunker and left himself a 40-foot putt. Bae (68) missed his birdie attempt from 18 feet. Garrigus, who birdied the last two holes in regulation for a 64, pounded his tee shot and hit wedge into 7 feet, but he pulled his birdie putt.

That set the stage for Donald, who had hit a superb shot from the rough that barely cleared the bunker.

"I was a lot more nervous the first time," Donald said of getting to No. 1. "That certainly wasn't my focus. I was just focused on trying to win the tournament, and it worked out."

They all finished at 13-under 271.

Scott Piercy, who finished his 62 before the leaders teed off, joined Els (67), Ken Duke (68) and Jeff Overton (66) in a tie for fifth. Overton and Piercy had birdie chances on the 18th, neither knowing it would be enough for a playoff. Duke missed a 5-foot par putt on the 17th hole to fall out of a six-way share of the lead.

As sweet as it was for Donald, it was painful for Els.

The Big Easy needed to win to secure his spot at Augusta National, and he was poised to do just that with a flawless round until the end. But he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th that would have given him a two-shot lead, then fell back into a six-way tie with a tee shot that sailed well right of the par-3 17th green and left him no chance of getting it close to save par.

He pulled his approach into the light rough left of the flag on the 18th, chipped below the hole and seemed a lock to be in the playoff. But his par putt never even touched the hole.

Els needs to be in the top 50 in the world after next week, and his four-way tie for fifth only moved him to the lower 60s. Because the field isn't strong at Bay Hill, he might have to win to have any chance. Els also is playing the Houston Open.

Els barely restrained himself in a brief TV interview after the round. There really wasn't much to say later.

"I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head here," Els said. "If I take stock, I think I'm playing good golf, and I've got head into the next couple of weeks trying to get a win."

Overton apparently wasn't thinking clearly, either.

Asked about his difficult par save on the 17th to stay in the hunt, Overton said, "It's amazing how the PGA Tour ... it's the best tour in the world by far. I don't know, if I was playing in Europe, it would probably be good enough to win."

Overton has never won in six years on the PGA Tour.

Retief Goosen showed on the opening hole that it was a minor miracle he was even tied for the lead. His back was in such pain that he could barely finish his swing. He hit his drive into the trees, took five shots to reach the green and made double bogey, a four-shot swing when Furyk holed a bunker shot for eagle.

Goosen was among the eight players atop the leaderboard at some point, though not for long. With bogeys on the last two holes, he closed with a 75. Goosen now goes to Virginia for a protein injection for his back. He could have qualified for the Masters by finishing among the top eight, and now gets an extended break.

Here is how the round unfolded at Innisbrook:

• • •

Leaderboard update: 6:36 p.m. EDT

The players are on the 18th tee:

Off the tee: First off the tee, Sang-Moon Bae hammers up the left side of the fairway; Robert Garrigus smokes it up the middle of the fairway; Jim Furyk hits it up the left side and into the intermediate cut of rough; and Luke Donald goes right and into the rough.

Second shots: Playing first, Luke Donald hits a beautiful approach shot to about five feet under the hole; Sang-Moon Bae also attacks the pin and lands about eight feet past, but it rolls to the right and he'll have more than 25 feet for birdie; Jim Furyk hits his approach out of the rough and it flies well past the hole and to the right, about 40 feet away from the flag; and Robert Garrigus matches Donald's shot and will have about five feet for birdie. Garrigus is the only one of the four players to birdie the hole in regulation on Sunday.

Third shots: All players will be putting, with Jim Furyk leading off, Furyk hits a nice putt, but in cuts under the hole and settles two feet to the left; Sang-Moon Bae misses just left of the hole and settles about 18 inches from the cup; Robert Garrigus pulls his birdie putt to the left; and Luke Donald drains his putt to win the title and regain World No. 1 status.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 6:08 p.m. EDT

With three players in the clubhouse at 13 under, Jim Furyk hits a nice shot out of the rough off the 18th fairway, sending it past the flag and had 26 feet for a birdie and the win.

He misses to the left and settles for a two-putt par to force a four-way playoff with Sang-Moon Bae, Luke Donald and Robert Garrigus.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 6:00 p.m. EDT

After a beautiful tee shot at the 18th, Sang-Moon Bae had about 135 yards left to the pin, but pulls his approach to the right and will need to two-putt to join the potential playoff.

Bae has the flag put back into the hole on his long birdie attempt and raps it a bit too hard and rolls past by about six feet. He drains it to finish at 13 under and in a potential playoff, with Jim Furyk in the rough off the 18th fairway.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 5:53 p.m. EDT

With hybrid at the par-3 17th, Jim Furyk plays a nice shot right at the hole, but it runs past the hole and right off the green, about 19 feet from the hole. He misses the putt to the right and settles for a par.

Ken Duke polished off his tournament with a par at the 18th and finishes at 12 under, one shot out of a potential playoff.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 5:45 p.m. EDT

After missing the green on his approach shot at the par-4 18th, Ernie Els pitches to about three feet and yanks his putt to the left and falls out of the lead. With a bogey-bogey finish, Els finishes at 12 under with a final-round, 4-under 67.

Jim Furyk and Sang-Moon Bae are both still on the course at 13 under. Each has two holes to play.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 5:35 p.m. EDT

Luke Donald finishes his round with a par at the 18th, polishing off a 5-under 66 to post 13 under, currently tied with four others for the lead.

Robert Garrigus is also in the clubhouse at 13 under.

Jim Furyk misses a 30-footer for birdie on No. 16 to stay at 13 under.

Ken Duke misses a four-foot par putt at the 17th hole to fall out of a tie for the lead.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 5:20 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els gets a lucky break at the par-3 17th, hitting his tee shot well right, but it kicks off a tree and back into the rough, where he has a pitch shot over bunkers to the pin. Meanwhile, the five players one shot back are all holding steady.

Els plays his second shot out of a trampled lie and puts it about 25 feet past the hole. He misses the putt to drop back to 13 under and in a six-way tie for the lead.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 5:10 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els pulls a birdie putt at the par-4 16th to stay at 14 under, failing to extend his lead to two shots over five others.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 4:50 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els is in the solo lead after Jim Furyk picks up a three-putt bogey at the par-3 13th hole. Els leads four players by one shot.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 4:25 p.m. EDT

Jim Furyk birdies the par-5 11th hole to move into a tie with Ernie Els at 14 under, while Robert Garrigus finishes his round with a birdie to get to the clubhouse at 13 under, eliminating Scott Piercy from contention.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 4:10 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els has taken the solo lead with his sixth birdie of the day, this time taking advantage of a great approach shot into the par-4 12th hole and moving to 14 under, one shot ahead of Jim Furyk, Sang-Moon Bae and Luke Donald.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 4:05 p.m. EDT

Ken Duke buries a birdie putt from just off the green at the par-5 11th to move to 12 under, one shot off the lead.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:55 p.m. EDT

Make that a four-way tie for the lead, with Sang-Moon Bae making a nice birdie at No. 10 to move to 13 under.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:52 p.m. EDT

We now have a three-way tie for the lead, with Luke Donald posting a birdie at the par-5 11th to move to 13 under. He joins Ernie Els and Jim Furyk atop the leaderboard.

There are three players one shot behind, including Scott Piercy, Sang-Moon Bae and Jeff Overton.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:38 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els has moved into a tie for the lead, holing a birdie putt at the par-4 10th hole to move to 13 under with Jim Furyk. Elso is 5 under on the day.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:25 p.m. EDT

Luke Donald picks up another birdie at the par-4 10th, moving to 12 under and is one shot off Jim Furyk's lead.

Donald is joined by Sang-Moon Bae, Jeff Overton, Scott Piercy and Ernie Els at 12 under.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:15 p.m. EDT

Ernie Els is within three shots after a birdie at No. 8, while Luke Donald has also moved to 11 under with a birdie at No. 9.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:05 p.m. EDT

And now Jim Furyk is in the lead alone, with Sang-Moon Bae playing a poor third shot into the par-4 6th hole and picking up a bogey. Bae is tied with Scott Piercy at 12 under.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:02 p.m. EDT

Jim Furyk rolls in a 25-footer for birdie at the par-5 5th hole to tie Sang-Moon Bae atop the leaderboard at 13 under.

Defending champion Gary Woodland has moved to 10 under.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 3:00 p.m. EDT

Sang-Moon Bae is in the solo lead after a birdie at the par-5 5th hole, moving to 13 under, one shot ahead of Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:35 p.m. EDT

Ken Duke holes a 5-footer for birdie at the par-5 5th hole to move to 11 under, one shot off the lead.

Tied for the lead, Jim Furyk picks up an easy par at the par-4 3rd hole, while Sang-Moon Bae made par at the par-3 4th.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:35 p.m. EDT

Luke Donald makes a lengthy birdie putt at the par-4 6th hole to move to 10 under, while Matt Kuchar drains one at the par-3 17th to also move to within two shots of the lead. Kuchar is not likely to catch Piercy at 12 under, but it working on a 6-under round.

Donald would move back to World No. 1 with a win at Innisbrook.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:30 p.m. EDT

After missing two short birdie putts at Nos. 3 and 4, Ernie Els holes one at the par-5 5th hole to move to 10 under, two shots back of the leaders. Another blast from the past is making a Sunday run as well, with Chris DiMarco also at 10 under.

There are 12 players within three shots of the lead.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:25 p.m. EDT

Jim Furyk gave one back at the par-4 12th to fall into a three-way tie for the lead at 12 under. Sang-Moon Bae birdied his second-straight hole, holing a putt at the par-4 3rd to tie Furyk.

In case you haven't heard about it, Charlie Wi picked up a 13 at the par-5 5th hole on Sunday, the second straight week a PGA Tour golfer has made octuple-bogey (Sergio Garcia did it at Doral last week). Click here for more on Wi's struggles.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:15 p.m. EDT

Sang-Moon Bae is flirting with the leaders again, picking up a birdie at No. 2 to move to 11 under, now two shots back of Jim Furyk.

Jeff Overton, John Mallinger and Webb Simpson are also at 11 under.

A deeper look at Scott Piercy's scorecard from today: He was bogey-free and went out in 29.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 2:07 p.m. EDT

Scott Piercy finished his round with a par to settle for a 9-under 62 (one shot off the course record) to get into the clubhouse at 12 under.

But he is no longer in the lead, as Jim Furyk holes a bunker shot for an eagle at the par-5 1st hole to move to 13 under.

Meanwhile, Retief Goosen made a mess of the first hole, picking up double-bogey after a series of errors trying to get out of the woods off the tee.

• • •

Leaderboard update: 1:50 p.m. EDT

Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk have both started their rounds, with Goosen sending his opening tee shot well right and into the woods, while Furyk smacks it down the left side of the fairway at the par-5 1st hole.

Scott Piercy is currently in the lead at 12 under, one ahead of Goosen, Furyk and now Webb Simpson.

• • •

Retief Goosen makes a run despite injury

Retief Goosen already has pulled out of Bay Hill next week because of his bum back. But he somehow pulled off a 6-under 65 on Saturday in Tampa to vault into a share of the lead. Story.

• • •

Ernie Els frustrated with putter

Ernie Els made a run on Saturday at the Transitions Championship, but it could have been even better if it wasn't for his faulty putter. Story.

• • •

Jason Dufner ready to win

Jason Dufner is 0-for-159 on the PGA Tour, the only player among the top 50 in the world without a win on any tour. He'll take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the Transitions Championship. Story.

• • •

Arjun Atwal finally makes a cut

Arjun Atwal finally will pick up a paycheck at the end of this week, making his first cut in eight starts on the PGA Tour in 2012. Story.

• • •

Padraig Harrington riding his own roller coaster

Padraig Harrington continues to ride his personal roller coaster, carding a 2-over 73 on Friday. Story.

• • •

John Senden working on his short game

John Senden's biggest weakness has been the flatstick. That is changing quickly. Story.

• • •

Padraig Harrington sets course record

Padraig Harrington knew he was playing better golf than his scores indicated. He just wasn't expecting the lowest official score of his life, a 10-under 61 to set the course record at Transitions. Story.

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