Donald top of the world after play-off drama

LUKE DONALD dethroned Lee Westwood as world number one in the most dramatic way possible yesterday – beating him in a play-off to win the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth.

The two Englishmen went into sudden-death at the BMW PGA Championship after Westwood had missed a six-foot birdie putt on the par-five final hole.

Donald then admitted that when the runner-up was called up at the prizegiving he very nearly stepped forward instead of Westwood.

However Donald kept his place to eventually step forward to claim a ‘winner takes all’ afternoon after defeating Westwood in a play-off and become the new World No. 1.

The 33-year Chicago-based Donald is the third different World No. 1 in six months after both he and Westwood finished tied on six under par ahead. And while Donald was being sprayed in champagne, Ireland’s Shane Lowry was celebrating after sharing fourth place, and in his best result since turning pro just on two years ago.

The Esker Hills star began his round in a share of 23rd and ended in spectacular style birdie, birdie, eagle for an equal best last day score of 67 for a two under par tally.

Lowry holed a six-foot birdie at 16 and then a 10-footer at 17, and he then became the only player all week to eagle the last, and did so by hitting a 3-wood, from 247-yards to 15 feet and knocking in the putt.

“I have been playing great all week, and I just went out there and knew there was a good score in me,” he said.

“I struggled early on in every round to get it going and made a couple of bad mistakes early doors again today and then I suppose I knew I was playing well enough.

“Also there were chances for me over the last few holes, and I played the three holes absolutely perfect.

“I put a new 3-wood in the bag, and off the tee on the last I had the perfect yardage, with an ideal right to left wind.

“I just said to my caddy, Dermot (Byrne) we might as well go for it because if you lay-up, it’s a tough wedge shot in there so go for it and see what happens.

“It was just great then to hole the putt.”

Lowry’s effort has all but wrapped up his Tour card for next season with his €191,100 cheque lifting him from 95th and to 37th on the Race to Dubai.

“That’s definitely my card kept, so that worry is out of the way and I can play free for the rest of the year and contend again,” Lowry proudly declared.

“I’m definitely a better player than I was 12 months ago. I feel like if I can become a better player every year there is only one way and that is up, and hopefully I keep improving. I will work hard and see what results happen.”

Lowry today will join Gary Murphy, as the only Irish in teeing up in a 36-hole US Open qualifier at Walton Heath.

In contrast, Donald heads back to the States and Thursday’s starting Memorial event in Dublin, Ohio.

Donald began the final round one clear of Westwood but soon found himself one behind when he bogeyed the opening two holes.

It wasn’t till he birdied the 16th and Westwood bogeyed that the Ryder Cup pair were tied.

Then at the first extra hole, Donald landed his third shot to some 12 feet while Westwood looking on in despair when his approach shot spun back into the water. Westwood eventually putted out for a double bogey.

Rory McIlroy heads out of nearby Heathrow later today also bound for Ohio after round a last day 73 for a share of 24th place.

Michael Hoey carded a 69 to share 31st place on four over par and two fewer than Darren Clarke who signed off for a 75.

And Gareth Maybin gets married today to long-time girlfriend Liz McMekin. Maybin completed his four rounds at the BMW with a closing hole birdie for a round of 73 but a disappointing 16-over par tally that left him near the tail of the field.


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