Luke Donald wins Target World Challenge with closing 64
Luke Donald was about to remember 2005 as a year of close calls.
Then came a final round he won't soon forget.
Six shots behind at the Target World Challenge, Donald closed with an 8-under 64 and won the Target World Challenge when Darren Clarke stumbled down the stretch.
Donald, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday, wound up with a two-shot victory by matching the best final round by a winner in the seven-year history of the tournament. He also earned $1.3 million from the richest event in the silly season. And while it doesn't count as an official victory, it sure felt like one.
"It's a nice feeling to know that I came here and beat a very, very strong field," said Donald, who finished at 16-under 272. "That's going to give me a lot of confidence going into next year."
The young Englishman can use it.
A former NCAA champion from Northwestern, he has won only one time on the PGA Tour in four years, with two other victories last year in Europe. He wasted a good chance at the Buick Invitational with a double bogey on the 14th hole, and he lost a final-round lead at The Players Championship.
"It did bother me," Donald said. "One of my goals was to win this year. I'll definitely take this one."
No one gave him much of a chance at Sherwood Country Club, especially the way Clarke was playing on the course, and staying away from his nightlife activities when his work was done.
But he fell apart down the stretch with a bogey on the par-5 16th. Needing a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff, he pulled his approach well left of the pin, and hit his 45-foot birdie putt so badly that he dropped his putter and put hands on hips a few moments after the ball left his blade.
He wound up with a three-putt bogey for a 72, with $800,000 for a consolation prize.
"Bogeying two of the last three holes was not really the way I wanted to finish," Clarke said. "I should have went out last night."
Tournament host Tiger Woods (2001) and Davis Love III (2000) also shot 64 to win the Target World Challenge, although they only came from four shots behind. Donald figured a 64 might give him a chance, but he expected one of the top three on the leaderboard -- Clarke, Michael Campbell or Padraig Harrington -- to pull away.
It never happened.
Campbell missed a 2-foot par putt on the sixth and never got it together, closing with a 72 to finish four shots behind. Harrington was tied for the lead when he hit into the bushes on the par-3 eighth and made double bogey. He hit into the water on the 18th for another double bogey and shot 73 to tie Campbell for third.
"Luckily, I played great today," Donald said. "Fortunately for me, the guys in the top two groups didn't play their best and let me have this one a little bit. This has been a year of 'nearlys.' Luckily, I got the last one. It will make Christmas a little better."
Woods either had won or finished second since his tournament moved to Sherwood in 2000, but not this year. He struggled all week, bogeyed two of his last three holes and shot 73 to finish in a tie for 14th.
It was his sixth event in the last six weeks -- two victories (Japan and the PGA Grand Slam), three times a runner-up (Tour Championship, Shanghai, Skins Game). After piping a 3-wood down the middle of the 18th fairway, Woods walked off the tee and said, "One more iron, three more putts and I'm done for the year."
Not quite. He missed the green, chipped short and took only two putts.
"I've been playing a lot of golf, putting on a lot of miles," he said. "My battery is just running a little low."
Donald plodded along with birdies, making five in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine to move closer to the lead. The biggest one came on the 13th, when he drove into the rough, had to lay up with a 9-iron and hit 7-iron into 10 feet. And when he holed an 8-footer on the 16th, he was tied with Clarke.
Clarke still had control, in the middle of the par-5 16th fairway with a 3-wood in hand. But he pulled his approach into deep rough on a steep slope above the green. His first chip didn't reach the green, and his next one went 8 feet by, and he wound up with bogey.
"I was fighting it left all day, just enough to get myself in difficult positions to get up and down," Clarke said. "The par 5s have been good to be all week, and the three places I missed, I didn't get good lies."
On the first 17 par 5s, Clarke was 16 under. He played the final three in 1 over.
Clarke usually treats this week as occasion to celebrate every night, although he swore off the parties after opening with a 65 to get into contention.
"Only last night," he said with a smile.
Asked what he did Saturday night, Clarke replied, "Nothing."
For Donald, he can only hope this is a springboard to 2006. In addition to his lone tour victory in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic three years ago, he won twice last year in Europe.
And while this isn't an official victory, he beat 15 of the best players in the world.
December 11, 2005
This years news archive | Email this page to a friend | Return to top of page