5 Things: Donald wins; Els, Goosen struggle
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Luke Donald overcame an overnight, three-shot deficit by firing a 5-under 66 to work his way into a four-way playoff, and then was the only player to birdie the tough 18th hole to win the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship and his first title of 2012.
Alex Miceli's Minute: Transitions Championship
World No. 1 golfers, in pictures
Take a look back at the men who have held the title of the world's No. 1 golfer since 1986.
Donald also vaults back to No. 1 in the world with the win and has momentum heading to the Masters in two weeks.
Here are 5 Things to take away from the week at Innisbrook:
1. BACK TO NO. 1: After only two weeks at No. 2, Donald has moved back to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings with the win at Innisbrook.
Donald held down the No. 1 ranking for 40 weeks in 2011-12.
Donald started the season sluggishly, finishing T-56 at the Northern Trust Open and then being bounced in the first round at the WGC-Match Play Championship by Ernie Els.
But he showed life last week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a T-6 finish.
Considered to the best putter on Tour, Donald was tops in the field in strokes gained putting at 2.594, sixth in putts per round (26.8) and sixth in putts per green in regulation (1.646).
While not a bomber off the tee, he was T-9 in driving accuracy at 73.1 percent, playing to Donald's strength of keeping it in play and not making mistakes.
2. NOT SO EASY: Ernie Els had lamented to our Alex Miceli that he wasn't happy with his putter on Saturday. On Sunday, the flatstick cost him a chance at his first title since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Els finished bogey-bogey on Sunday to drop from holding a one-shot lead to out of the eventual playoff. Els missed a three-foot par putt on the 18th that sent him to an awkward post-round interview on NBC Sports.
The Big Easy beat himself up after the round.
"It's going to be tough (to take away any positives)," said Els, who fired a 4-under 67 on Sunday. "I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head here. Yeah, 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."
While many will remember the missed putt, Els took notice of pulling his approach shot past the hole and into the rough. Els had actually played the tough 18th hole at 1 under until Sunday.
"It's a difficult green," said Els. "You know, I pulled my second left . . . and chipped it up to three or four feet. You know, I was trying to just jam it in there and I pulled it."
Els is still fighting for a spot in next month's Masters, and will need a high finish or win at Bay Hill to secure that spot.
3. MAKING AN IMPRESSION: Sang-Moon Bae played chicken with the top of the leaderboard all weekend, ultimately firing a 3-under 68 in the final round to work his way into the playoff. But he did it differently on Sunday, using consistency and pars to stay in contention.
On Saturday, Bae needed seven birdies to secure a 3-under 68. He only needed four on Sunday.
He was first in the field with 21 birdies over the four days, while also topping the field in putts per round at 25.8.
The putts were important after hitting only 62.5 percent of his greens in regulation, with was T-59 for the week.
Playing at Innisbrook reminded Bae of playing on the Japan Tour.
"This course like a little Japan Tour course," said Bae, who has four top-30 finishes this season. "(There are) many tree lines, so (it is) very comfortable for me. So this week, it (was) better."
4. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES: A day after setting the course on fire and grabbing part of the lead with Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen started the day with a double-bogey at the par-5 first, a bogey at No. 2 and another bogey at the par-5 fifth hole. He finished the day with a pair of bogeys and closed with a 4-over 75 and a T-20 finish.
Goosen is also looking for a spot in the Masters, and likely will not get it, as he has pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to have treatment on his back. But he refused to use the injury as an excuse on Sunday.
"It was the same as yesterday, my back," said Goosen, a two-time champion at Transitions. "Yesterday, I hit a lot of bad shots and got a way with it and today I didn't. So I won't say that the back was any different to yesterday. It's just a lot of shots going right.
"Played like a dog, simple as that. I could have done better than that, working with the issue on my back, but I wouldn't say my back was any worse."
5. UNLUCKY 13: Charlie Wi became the second PGA Tour player to pick up an octuple-bogey in the past two weeks, with Wi carding a 13 at the par-5 fifth hole at Innisbrook. Sergio Garcia had a 12 at Doral.
Just how does one make a 13? Wi had three shots carom off a tree, all of them falling onto the practice range behind him. His woes started on the tee, driving it into the right rough. There was a wood chip next to his ball and it caused the ball to come off his 6-iron to the right and into the trees. Trying to play it just over a tree trunk with his next shot, the ball hit the trunk and bounded back into the practice range.
"It was right next to the range. The range just stopped," Wi said. "Everybody was looking at me."
Kevin Na had a 16 in San Antonio last year, and Wi remembered it well.
"I should have beat him," Wi said. "The problem was, we only had six balls, and I hit three of them on the range. I said, 'Man, we might run out of balls.'"
Despite the 13, Wi fired a 7-over 78.