Luke Donald is once again the No. 1 player in the world after defeating Robert Garrigus, Sang-Moon Bae and Jim Furyk in a four-man playoff at the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Spa to win the Transitions Championship. This is Donald’s fifth career win and first since the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last year at Walt Disney World which at the time clinched the 2011 Tour money title.
Donald played all four rounds under-par (67, 68, 70, 66) en route to his 13-under-par victory. Donald’s winning score was just above the average, 12-under, of past winners. Starting the day three strokes behind former majors winners Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk, Donald’s game was spectacular on Sunday as he carded a five-under-par, bogey-free 66.
On Sunday, the players brought one of their favorite courses to its knees as there were only two players in the top 28 who failed to break par. Scott Piercy set the tone as he fired a nine-under 62 that he posted hours before the leaders teed off. The scene was set and the former world No. 1 was up for the challenge.
Knowing that Piercy had gone low, the last groups out had a target number to shoot at or best on Sunday.
Donald wasted no time getting into contention turning in three-under 33 to find him among the leaders. And there were plenty of them. For most of the afternoon, there were no less than a dozen golfers within two or three shots of the lead. Donald birdied 10 and 11 to hit 13-under and then rode seven consecutive pars to tie Robert Garrgius, who had already posted, in the clubhouse with the lead.
Donald went low the only way he knows how: Steady driving, steely short game and lights-out putting. He finished the tournament third-last in driving distance but was T9 in driving accuracy. He hit 66.7% GIR (T9) for the week and made zero bogeys on the day. He also led the tournament in strokes gained-putting. It’s a simple formula, yet an efficient, winning formula.
On the first playoff hole, No. 18, Donald’s tee shot found the right rough. No bother. He knocked an iron to about 6 feet and watched Bae, Furyk and Garrigus miss their birdies before rolling his in the “side door” for the win.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Luke Donald began the day three behind two-time major winner Retief Goosen and former U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk. For the ump-teenth time this season, the 54-hole leader could not close the deal.
Donald was cruising along after two days at seven-under yet looked to have run out of steam on Saturday. He began Saturday with an eagle, but then saw four bogeys overcome three birdies to finish at eight-under. I guess he thought moving day was on Sunday! Facing the “Snake Pit”, holes 16-18 to close, Donald kept his nerve and closed with three consecutive pars. His total score on the “Snake Pit” for the week was 11 pars and one bogey, championship-winning stuff.
Donald once again has shown the golfing world that “bomb and gouge” can be offset with accuracy, precision and short-game.
With this victory, Donald earns $990,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He’s now currently 12th in the FedExCup standings and first in the world. Nice weekend, Luke!
Finally, remember when Sergio bagged a 12 last week on Sunday at Doral after knocking four balls in the drink? Well, Charlie Wi decided that he wanted to be the new leader in the clubhouse as he took 13 shots to navigate hole five THIS Sunday. He must have had a Kevin Na-esque experience because, unlike Garcia’s travails, there was no water in Wi’s adventure. Please tell me we won’t have to start keeping track of this every week from now on…
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 13 tournaments this season the Young versus Old argument now stands at 8-2-3 as I will chalk 34-year old Luke Donald up to the middle this week.
For the young, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36) and now Luke Donald (34)in the middle, a half-point for each.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the old folks on Tour.
It’s now three in a row for the “rest of the world” with Donald’s win this week at Transitions.
Robert Garrigus: Absolutely lit up the Copperhead Course on Sunday to make the four-man playoff carding a final round 64. His birdie-birdie finish posted the clubhouse lead of 13-under two hours before the final group would come through the “Snake Pit”. Garrigus was T2 in birdies and T5 in GIR for the week but now runs his Tour playoff record to 0-3. After two hours of waiting around, he absolutely crushed his tee shot on 18 and his iron into the green was only outdone by Donald’s. Sadly, his birdie putt missed and so did his chance of claiming his first Tour victory since 2010 (Children’s Miracle Network Classic). I guess we should follow recent winners of the CMNC to see who will contend here next year! Good job if you saw this coming from Garrigus this week as 2012 has been feast of famine. In his previous six events, he was T30, WD, T20, CUT, CUT and T2.
Jim Furyk: The overnight co-leader and former U.S. Open champ got off to a flying start with an eagle on number one to start Sunday. Unfortunately for Furyk he only found two more birdies to cancel out his two bogeys. He had a chance to win outright on 18 but his putt didn’t fall. His week was up and down with 66 on Thursday and Saturday and 70/69 Friday and Sunday. In his fifth start of 2012, his T2 is the best to date. This was a nice bounce back from Furyk after MC last week at Honda and being knocked out of the first round at WGC-Match Play.
Sang-Moon Bae: Before he entered the “Snake Pit” on Saturday afternoon, Moon looked like he was closing in on holding his first-ever 54-hole lead. After avoiding disaster leading up to that with some excellent iron play from tight spots, Moon’s luck ran on 16 as he made triple bogey. He regrouped and made birdie at 17 and showed the field he was right back in the thick of things. Instead of having a two-shot lead on Sunday, he began the day one back. After four birdies and a bogey, Moon was tied for the lead on 18 tee but needed a nervy par-saver to make the playoff. His P2 is his best career finish on Tour and he did it by leading the field in birdies with 21 against only 5 bogeys. Moon also was second in strokes gained-putting which came in handy as he was T59 GIR. Bae’s now played eight events in 2012 and is yet to miss the cut. As you’ve read, he’s eligible for all the WGC events as well so he must be on your radar.
Scott Piercy: After his round three 72, raise your hand if you saw this coming on Sunday? Good, glad I’m not the only one. Piercy destroyed the course on Sunday to the tune of nine birdies on top of zero bogeys for 62. His 2012 started off well as he finished T12, T23, CUT and T13. He followed those four tournaments with T50, CUT, CUT before finishing T5 this week. This momentum usually carries over the following week so I will be following the next time this long-bomber and solid putter tees it up again.
Jeff Overton: The former Ryder Cup player had his best finish since CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia (2nd) with his T5. He and playing partner Webb Simpson were both four-under through six holes and looked to be feeding off each other. Overton’s only hiccup of the day was a missed three-footer for par on 15. He backed that up with a birdie but that bogey cost him a shot at the playoff. Overton had a wrist problem that caused him to WD at WMPO but looks to have put that behind him. Since the WD, he’s finished T44, T18, T14 and now T5. His game is heading in the right direction and that was evidenced by his 19 birdies (T5) and T5 GIR this week. Please take note!
Ernie Els: After two victories in 2010 and yet only one top 10 last year, Ernie Els looked like he was on his way to claiming his 19th Tour victory. A loose tee shot on 17 resulted in a two-putt bogey and a looser second shot on 18 saw another bogey knock him from the lead to a T5, missing out on the playoff. After watching the very strange interview with him after the round, you can’t help but feel for the “Big Easy”. Beginning the year with T52 and T59 finishes, Els wasn’t on my radar. I’m going to put him back on the radar after his T21 last week and T5 this week as he heads to Bay Hill on the weekend. He should have good vibes going as The Arnold Palmer was the scene of his last victory in 2010. Oh, and he was T1 in GIR this week which is proof that he’s getting closer.
Ken Duke: Duke’s putting was the key to his successes this week in finishing T5, but like Overton, he’d like to have his four-footer on 17 back. That miss also cost him a spot in the playoff as he finished 12-under. Hole 16 was his downfall this week as he played the par-four in three-over. Still, another gutty performance from a guy who at this time last season was toiling on the Nationwide Tour. He’s played in nine events in 2012 and has made the cut in eight of them. He’s had a smell of the lead twice, once at Pebble Beach (T7) and once at Transitions (T5), yet in six other made cuts he’s never been better than T39. Careful.
Bo Van Pelt: The second of two Indiana boys in the top 10 this week along with Jeff Overton, Van Pelt made 20 birdies and was third in strokes gained-putting. In his last four stroke-play events, he’s been T8, T8, T8 and T9 this week. Folks, that’s a streak. I hope you got on it.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar looks like his game is rounding into form with another top 10 this week. He started the year T22, T33 and T24, which isn’t bad, but more is expected from a player of his caliber. He hasn’t disappointed the last three weeks as he was a quarterfinalist at WGC-Match Play, T8 and WGC-CC and T10 this week. His 65 on Sunday was the third-lowest of the day. He was co-leader in GIR with Els and only made two bogeys on the week to finish 10-under after starting with two-over 73 on Thursday.
Webb Simpson: Last week, he sandwiched two 66’s on Friday and Saturday between a 75 on Thursday and a 77 on Sunday. This week, Simpson found some consistency along with making birdies for another top 10 in 2012. Each week, the only number that blows you away with him is how many strokes under-par he is. He finds a way to get the ball in the hole and that’s the name of the game and he seems to do it every week. He’s played six events in 2012 and has hit the top 10 three times while not finishing worse than T38.
Kevin Streelman: His interesting 2012 was again interesting this week with a T10. In eight events he’s missed the cut four times, has had T56 and T73 and has hit the top 10 twice. His week at Transitions was interesting as well as he only made three bogeys in four rounds which was second best in the field. He also made 56 pars which was T2. I have no idea what any of this means or what he’s going to do next week. Stay tuned.
Jason Dufner: At WMPO, Dufner opened with 64 and went on to finish T8. At WGC-CC, he opened with 66 before playing the last three rounds one over and finished T29. This week, he opened 66, 66 with no bogeys before playing the weekend even par. He’s making strides in the right direction while still looking for his first career Tour victory.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Retief Goosen: The co-leader after 54 holes had a Sunday to forget after playing some excellent golf in the first three rounds. Goosen made only four bogeys in the first three rounds and was looking for his first win since the 2009 Transitions Championship. He’s won twice here (2003) so it was a bit shocking to see him go out in 40 on Sunday. After steadying the ship for even par on the back, Goosen finished the week T20 even though he was T71 (out of 77 players to make the cut) GIR.
Gary Woodland: The defending champion finished T29 and that’s been the story all year long. Take a look at these stroke play finishes (full-field only) T76, T26, T69, T29 and T29. The good news is he is now second on Tour with 20 consecutive cuts-made. He trails Steve Stricker who has 46. Woodland has been working with Butch Harmon and he’s yet to see the results on the leader board. That should concern gamers who look at him each week.
Justin Rose: Last week’s winner was well-positioned heading into Saturday before two double-bogeys essentially knocked him out of the tournament en route to 75. Just to prove to us all how well he’s been playing, he came out Sunday and staked six birdies to just one bogey for 65. Rose finished T29.
Charl Schwartzel: The South African entered the week having made 22 consecutive cuts on Tour. He’ll have to start a new streak the next time he tees it up. After finishing T5 at WGC-CC and T4 at Honda, I didn’t see this coming. He went out in 39 on Thursday and never recovered. After his recent run of form, I wouldn’t be too concerned going forward with Schwartzel. This is what makes fantasy golf great. If you could project everything perfectly, what fun would that be? Just ask Norfolk State or Lehigh fans! Hope your brackets are doing well also!