Needing a top-eight finish to leapfrog McIlroy, who missed the cut here on Friday, third-round leader Donald bounced back from an early bogey yesterday to pull clear of nearest rival Justin Rose and win by four strokes at 15 under par thanks to a final-round, four-under 68.
Having beaten Lee Westwood in a play-off 12 months ago to initially climb to number one, Donald retained a title for the first time and was understandably delighted.
“I thought last year would be hard to top in going head-to-head with Lee (Westwood) and finally to get to that No. 1 world ranking,” Donald said.
“So it’s very special to come back here because it is the biggest event we play on the European Tour.”
Fellow Englishman Rose, two back at the start of play and seeking to vault into the world’s top five with victory, ceded another two strokes to the leader and his closing 70 was only good enough to fall into a share of second with Scotland’s Paul Lawrie on 11 under, who birdied the last for a 66.
Peter Lawrie also birdied the par-five 18th and the clutch putt from 15 feet sent the Dublin man clear of South Africa’s Branden Grace into outright fourth and a cheque for €225,000. That was some way short of the €333,330 he picked up when winning the 2008 Spanish Open but there were few complaints from Lawrie, who today will tee off at nearby Walton Heath in the 36-hole US Open qualifier.
Lawrie’s title challenge came to an end just as he was getting right into the shake-up.
With Donald having bogeyed the par-four fifth to fall back into a tie at 10 under with Rose, the Dubliner moved to within a shot of the leaders when he birdied the par-four sixth.
Hope was shortlived, however. Lawrie sent his tee shot at the seventh into trees and his second shot found water. Game over, with a triple-bogey seven, compounded by Donald’s back-to-back birdies at six and seven to restore a two-shot lead over Rose at 12 under.
Lawrie, though, regrouped to stay focused and secure a top-four finish.
“Taking that triple at seven knocked the stuffing out of me,” he said. “Then I missed the next green and I think, ‘aw , where are we going from here’. I made a lovely shot on 10 and that settled things down.”
Having gone toe-to-toe with Donald on Saturday and beaten partner Ernie Els by a stroke yesterday, Lawrie has plenty to be satisfied about with his week’s work.
“I’ve led the driving stats and the greens in regulation. If I could have holed a few putts this week I could have given Luke a good run for his money. But, in general, I have to be happy with what I’ve done.
“At least the bank manager will be off my ass now and, you know what, that’s my card sorted out.”
There was a South African trio next in the final standings with Grace fifth at seven under, Richard Sterne on six under, and Els sharing seventh with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Germany’s Marcel Siem, who enjoyed a hole in one at the par-three second on the way to his five-under finish.
Els, designer of the West Course renovations, over the past three years, had on Saturday in a post-round press conference lost his temper with the Tour for allowing too hard a track as the strong winds dried out what little moisture there had been and made the greens difficult to hold.
“I asked them to put water on the greens, so put water on the greens,” snapped Els in one of his less profane moments, his outburst prompting a statement yesterday from European Tour chief executive George O’Grady.
Els, O’Grady said, had “apologised for his intemperate language” and had “offered a substantial donation to The European Tour Benevolent Trust.”