Donald meets high expectations with Honda win
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 The Honda Classic | Wrap | 13 Mar 2006
England’s Luke Donald today won his second tournament on the USPGA Tour and his first in three and a half years but there have always been many who felt that he was destined for greatness despite not winning as often as his pure talent suggested he would. His two shot win at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens further confirms this.
A graduate to the PGA Tour from the Tour School in 2002, Donald has been steadily improving each season. His win in his rookie year in 2002 suggested that multiple wins would come his way early in his career but although they have not, it has been clear that he is amongst the best of the under 30-year-old golfers in the world for much of that time.
He may not have won often on the PGA Tour but his game has been strengthened by playing successfully internationally with European Tour wins in Sweden and Switzerland. He also won the World Cup of Golf with Paul Casey in 2004. Donald is one of the classiest swingers of a golf club and given the amount of times he has been putting himself in position lately there is much more to come in his PGA Tour career.
He will likely move inside the top ten in the world this week from his current 12th and with Augusta now just three weeks away he will be looking to his current form to perhaps even better his fine 3rd place finish there on debut last year.
Today he displayed the mental toughness to overcome a shaky period in the middle of his round, to contend with a tough and demanding Sunrise layout at the Mirasol Country Club and to fend off challenges that appeared from everywhere in the middle of his round.
Tied for the lead with Billy Mayfair at the start of the day’s play today, Donald made the perfect start with birdies at the first and fourth holes to take the lead at eleven under. He struck a difficult stretch between holes seven and ten and when he missed from very short range for par at the 10th he had slipped one behind Nationwide Tour graduate, Jeff Gove.
The 28-year-old NorthWestern University graduate got things moving in the right direction however when he birdied the 13th after his second from 166 yards finished 10 feet from the hole. He made that and went to ten under and then at the 14th after finding the waster bunker to the right of the fairway he hit a fine second to 20 feet and made that to move to eleven under and one ahead of Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who was playing in the group ahead.
Ogilvy, after birdies at the 13th and 14th had him in the lead, bogeyed the 15th to fall two behind but then birdied the 16th from 12 feet to move back to within one. After a great drive at the 17th he failed to make his birdie at the par five and at the 18th hit a great drive but his second finished 30 feet from the hole. Knowing he needed this putt to force the issue with Donald, Ogilvy’s putt shaved the hole and at ten under he now became reliant on a Donald mistake. Billy Mayfair had created one last opportunity for himself when he birdied the 16th and 17th to move to nine under but he was unable to birdie the last and would eventually finish in a share of third.
Donald stood on the last tee with a one shot lead and hit the perfect drive. His approach was right at the flag and flirted briefly with the front left bunker which he needed to do to get it close. It carried the trap by three yards and kicked on forward to towards the hole. It finished four feet from the cup and when he holed that he had move to 12 under and was a two shot winner. Donald moves to 6th on the money list with US$1,409,000.
Ogilvy earned US$594,000 for his runner up placing and now moves to second on the money list behind South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini.
Mayfair finished in a share of third with David Toms who continued his brilliant start to 2006 but was let down by a third round of 76. Tom Pernice was alone in fifth place.
Jeff Gove, who had played so well for so long in this event, felt the pinch over the closing holes dropping four shots on the last five holes after having the lead at one stage early in his back nine. It was a costly hour or so but he will take a lot from a week where he finished 7th and earned his biggest cheque (US$172,000) in the game. His previous best was when 10th at the Greater Hartford Open in 2002 earning US$100,000.
Of the other Australians Stephen Leaney was 27th, Robert Allenby 31st and Scott Hend 41st. For Hend, who has no status on the USPGA Tour in 2006, this was a good result although his weekend rounds were rollercoasters. On Saturday he had three double bogeys and four birdies while today he had two eagles, two birdies and eight bogeys.
The PGA Tour now heads to Bay Hill near Orlando for the Bay Hill Invitational.
Photo – Anthony Powter