Luke Donald Regains Golf’s No. 1 Ranking With Playoff Victory

Luke Donald reclaimed golf’s No. 1 world ranking from Rory McIlroy with victory in a four-way playoff at the Transitions Championship.

Donald, a 34-year-old Englishman, earned his fifth title on the U.S. PGA Tour yesterday when he sank a 6 1/2-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole on the Copperhead course at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Donald collected $990,000 by beating American duo Jim Furyk and Robert Garrigus, and Sang-Moon Bae from South Korea, who all finished the tournament at 13-under par. Donald had the shortest drive at the par-4 18th hole in the playoff and was the only player to miss the fairway, yet his approach shot from the rough just cleared a bunker in front of the green and rolled within seven feet of the hole.

“The other three hit pretty good drives and I was probably in the worst position,” Donald told reporters. “That shot just came off perfectly.”

Donald, who overcame a three-shot deficit in the final round, had been ousted as world No. 1 on March 5, a day after U.S. Open champion McIlroy won the Honda Classic. Donald was the top-ranked player for 39 weeks.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the world rankings,” Donald said. “It’s nice to sneak out a win.”

Garrigus, who led the playoff contenders with a 7-under-par 64 in the final round, missed a birdie putt from just outside seven feet in the playoff. Donald had a 66 yesterday, while Bae shot 68 and Furyk had a 69.

Scott Piercy, who finished in a four-way tie for fifth place at 12-under, had a 62, the lowest score of the day.

Playoff Jam

The playoff was almost a record-tying six-way contest.

Ken Duke missed out when he bogeyed No. 17 to drop back to 12-under. Ernie Els, 42, who took the lead at 14-under when Furyk had a three-putt bogey at No. 13, finished with consecutive bogeys to drop to 12-under. He missed a 5-foot par putt at the 18th hole.

The event entered extra holes when Furyk, the 2010 champion, missed a 28-foot birdie effort at the final hole.

Six golfers have contested a playoff on the PGA Tour twice; at the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic, which Neal Lancaster won, and the 2001 Nissan Open, won by Robert Allenby.

The U.S. PGA Tour’s next official event is the Arnold Palmer Invitational from March 22-25. Tiger Woods said March 15 he’ll be ready for the tournament in Orlando, Florida. It will be his last scheduled event before the Masters Tournament, the first of four annual major championships.

Woods, a four-time winner of the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, withdrew from the Cadillac Championship in Miami on March 11 because of tightness in his left leg. It was later diagnosed as a mild Achilles tendon strain.

‘More Hype’

Donald said returning to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking may put more pressure on him to win a first major at the Masters, which is scheduled to run April 5-8.

“There might be a little bit more hype around me,” he said. “I’ve been through that and I still think Rory and obviously Tiger will be getting a lot of the attention.”

Woods, a 14-time major tournament winner, hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since September 2009 and last captured the Masters in 2005.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at dmcluskey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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