Donald joins the big boys with Florida win

Luke Donald achieved arguably the best win of his life today when he captured the Honda Classic in Florida – and with it moved into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

Luke Donald achieved arguably the best win of his life today when he captured the Honda Classic in Florida – and with it moved into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

The 28-year-old Englishman beat Australian Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the Accenture World Match Play title on his last start two weeks ago, by two after an exciting duel at the Mirasol club in Palm Beach Gardens.

It was Donald’s third victory on American soil, but the 2002 Southern Farm Bureau Classic came when the final round was washed out and the Target World Challenge last December was not an official US Tour event.

He was trying to become the third European winner of the event in six years – Jesper Parnevik triumphed in 2001 and Pádraig Harrington 12 months ago.

Harrington, five behind at the start of play and aware that he came from seven back with a closing 63 last year to beat Vijay Singh and Joe Ogilvie in a play-off, finished disappointingly with a 74 for 16th place.

Donald hit back from a real sticky patch to go two ahead with birdie putts of eight and 25 feet at the 13th and 14th.

But the win had still to be earned. Ogilvy cut the gap to one with a 10-footer on the difficult 16th and then Donald found heavy rough with his drive on the same hole.

The 28-year-old, forced to just chop out, saved par from almost 18 feet, however, and was given a reprieve when Ogilvy failed to birdie the long 17th.

Donald was bunkered in two there and did not play the best of recovery shots, but making par kept him one ahead and after Ogilvy had narrowly missed from 35 feet at the last he settled the issue by hitting a spectacular approach to within four feet of the flag.

Making the birdie putt gave him first prize with a closing 69 and 12-under-par aggregate of 276.

“I was really struggling on the greens and lost a bit of confidence,” said Donald, who moves up to fourth place from ninth in the Ryder Cup rankings. “But I was still right in there and I knew if I could just play Luke Donald golf (straight and solid) it might be good enough.”

As for the closing birdie, he added: “The ball had a bit of mud on it and I was just hoping it would fly straight. In the air it looked pretty good.”

And on the ground it was even better.

Billy Mayfair, joint leader with Donald at the start of the day, dropped into a tie for third with pre-tournament favourite David Toms.

Little-known American Jeff Gove, a Nationwide Tour graduate ranked a lowly 485th in the world and with nothing better than a 10th-place finish in his US Tour career, had led with nine to play.

But he came a cropper on the 15th, missing the green badly right, leaving his pitch short and taking three more for a double bogey five.

Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Brian Davis came 41st, 55th and 65th respectively after rounds of 73, 76 and 71.

Poulter, now with only two events left to climb into the world’s top 50 in time for the Masters at Augusta, was glad to see the back of the par-four 14th.

After four-putting it for a triple bogey seven in the third round he incurred two penalty shots on his return and double-bogeyed it.

Westwood had a dismal weekend of back-to-back 77s. He had been level with Donald in seventh place at halfway.

Collated final round scores and totals in the USPGA Tour, The Honda Classic, CC at Mirasol Sunrise Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, United States (USA unless stated, par 72):

276 Luke Donald (Eng) 72 67 68 69

278 Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 67 71 71 69

279 David Toms 67 67 76 69, Billy Mayfair 68 67 72 72

280 Tom Pernice Jnr 74 71 67 68

281 Dudley Hart 69 72 71 69

282 Jeff Gove 68 71 69 74, Frank Lickliter II 71 70 70 71, Stephen Ames (Can) 70 69 75 68

283 Mathew Goggin (Aus) 71 75 65 72, D.A. Points 73 71 71 68

284 Pat Perez 72 71 68 73

285 Ryuji Imada (Jpn) 67 73 73 72, Daniel Chopra (Swe) 73 65 71 76, Greg Owen (Eng) 71 71 72 71

286 Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 71 67 74 74, Marco Dawson 74 66 73 73, Henrik Bjornstad (Nor) 71 70 75 70, Paul Azinger 72 67 74 73, Bernhard Langer (Ger) 74 71 70 71, Mathias Gronberg (Swe) 67 71 72 76, Briny Baird 72 70 73 71

287 Shaun Micheel 69 76 75 67, Dean Wilson 71 71 72 73, Vance Veazey 76 68 70 73, Kevin Na (Kor) 73 74 69 71

288 Stephen Leaney (Aus) 73 72 69 74, John Cook 69 74 72 73, Carlos Franco (Par) 72 72 76 68, Bubba Dickerson 76 71 71 70

289 Jerry Smith 73 70 71 75, Robert Allenby (Aus) 75 68 71 75, Tim Herron 72 75 69 73, Kris Cox 73 69 76 71, Jesper Parnevik (Swe) 71 72 75 71, Camilo Villegas (Col) 73 74 68 74, Charley Hoffman 72 71 74 72, Craig Barlow 74 68 71 76, Jason Caron 75 70 75 69, Jimmy Walker 72 73 71 73

290 Brian Gay 68 71 75 76, Ian Poulter (Eng) 75 72 70 73, Mark Calcavecchia 76 69 69 76, Thomas Levet (Fra) 74 68 78 70, Scott Hend (Aus) 69 70 77 74, Eric Axley 75 71 74 70, Todd Fischer 72 73 72 73

291 Kent Jones 72 74 74 71, Shigeki Maruyama (Jpn) 71 69 76 75

292 David McKenzie (Aus) 74 72 70 76, John Rollins 72 70 76 74, Fred Couples 72 72 75 73, Paul Stankowski 70 76 71 75, Danny Ellis 72 72 72 76

293 Nicholas Thompson 73 70 71 79, Lee Westwood (Eng) 73 66 77 77, Jon Mills (Can) 73 74 68 78, Hank Kuehne 70 75 72 76, Charles Howell III 74 73 69 77, Davis Love III 70 73 76 74, Carl Pettersson (Swe) 76 68 73 76

294 Daisuke Maruyama (Jpn) 70 70 82 72, Hunter Mahan 71 73 74 76, Jason Schultz 68 71 75 80

295 Ryan Moore 73 73 70 79, John Huston 70 75 77 73, Nick Watney 72 72 75 76, Alex Aragon 73 74 75 73, Joe Durant 73 73 77 72, Brian Davis (Eng) 76 71 77 71

296 Troy Matteson 71 76 72 77

297 Alex Cejka (Ger) 72 71 75 79

298 Mark O’Meara 73 72 71 82.

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