Desert glory

Luke Donald holds the trophy after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Luke Donald holds the trophy after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

MARANA, Ariz. – Martin Kaymer may be the top-ranked player in the world, but he wasn’t No. 1 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Luke Donald put on a five-day clinic at the Ritz-Carlton Club and authored a performance so dominant that he never played the 18th hole all week.

Snow, sleet, the world’s best player – nothing could stop Donald on Sunday.

On a strange final day in the Arizona desert, which began with an inch of snow covering the fairways at Dove Mountain, Donald pulled ahead for good with a birdie on the par-5 11th, eventually closing out Kaymer for a 3-and-2 victory. It was Donald’s first victory in the U.S. since the 2006 Honda Classic.

“Hopefully, I’m getting past that stage of going a few years without winning,” he said.

Donald played only 89 holes in six matches and never trailed in any of them. It was his first World Golf Championships title, and he became the second player from England to capture the Match Play, after Ian Poulter won for the first time in the U.S. last year. Donald will move to a career-best No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and it marks the first time since March 15, 1992, that the top four spots will be occupied by Europeans (Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Donald, Graeme McDowell).

Kaymer was in search of his first U.S. victory since the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, but came undone with an uncharacteristically poor performance on the greens. He walked away, however, with quite a consolation prize: the No. 1 ranking, which was assured by reaching the final match.

“The guys who are up there,” Kaymer said, “they are very consistent, good players. So I can see them staying there for a while.”

Kaymer wore a white snood around his neck to protect himself from the frigid weather that swept through Arizona. Temperatures plummeted into the 50s, and a late winter storm left Dove Mountain under a light dusting of snow Sunday morning. Sleet began falling when the championship match reached the third green, and play was stopped when sleet covered the fourth fairway.

“It was kind of bizarre crouching under my umbrella like that,” Donald said. “It was testing conditions.”

Already 1 up from his 18-foot birdie on the par-5 second, he watched Kaymer hit a fade over the bunker to about 7 feet, then answered with a shot into 2 feet for a conceded birdie. Kaymer missed, and Donald was 2 up.

On the next hole, Kaymer pulled his drive into the desert and fell another hole down.

Donald three-putted for bogey on No. 6 from below the ridge to lose his first hole, and Kaymer squared the match at the turn with a birdie on the eighth and a bogey on No. 9, where Donald hit his approach into a desert bush and had to return to his original spot in the fairway.

The turning point might have been No. 10.

Kaymer had all the momentum and blistered a tee shot down the middle, while Donald went from a scrubby lie in the desert to a waste area short of the green. Donald, however, blasted out to 3 feet for a conceded par.

He took the lead on the 11th by making an 8-foot birdie putt as Kaymer missed his birdie from just inside 6 feet, and Donald regained all the momentum on the next hole when Kaymer came up short into the sand and took bogey.

Donald went 3 up on the 15th when Kaymer missed a birdie putt from inside 4 feet, and the “Germanator” conceded the match on the 16th when he failed to hole a 30-foot birdie putt.

“I think he’s definitely one of the most consistent players on Tour,” Kaymer said of Donald. “And I think he’s probably the best in the world in the short game, at the moment. What Luke is doing at the moment is a joke, you know? Wherever he is, you know that he will make the up-and-down if he doesn’t hole it. And it was impressive.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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