Arizona Artistry

By Rex HoggardFebruary 28, 2011, 6:38 am

2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayMARANA, Ariz. – Forgive Luke Donald if he appeared a tad flummoxed following his 3-and-2 victory over Martin Kaymer in Sunday’s final bout at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Englishman hadn’t seen the 18th hole all week and had been pushed to Dove Mountain’s 17th hole just once, so the rocky road back to the Ritz clubhouse was a little unfamiliar.

Who would have thought that the Match Play winner, who must weather five days and six rounds, would play fewer holes (89) than the Bob Hope Classic champion (90)?

But the journey through the high Arizona desert was a Sunday stroll compared to the wilderness Donald has traversed since his last title on the PGA Tour.

The last time Donald hoisted Sunday gold, the economy was booming, Martin Kaymer was barely a blip on the European radar and Tiger Woods ruled the World Ranking with mathematical command. So if Donald seemed a bit overly relieved following his Draconian performance at Dove Mountain, it was for good reason.

“You always have doubts when you go five years without a win on the U.S. Tour . . . To come here and beat the top 63 players is very gratifying,” said Donald, whose last Tour victory was at the 2006 Honda Classic.

The way Donald performed at the year’s first World Golf Championship, he could have collected two Tour titles. For the week he birdied 32 of 89 holes, hit 74 percent of his greens in regulation, 66 percent of his fairways and one-putted a staggering 46 times. By any measure, a commanding performance.

But Donald’s greatest achievement, at least personally, was doing it against the game’s best – freshly minted world No. 1 Kaymer who completed his long-overdue ascension to the top of the World Ranking heap with his finals appearance.

“Everybody was sending me text messages saying they hope he plays Bubba (Watson) in the final, but I wanted him to play Kaymer and so did Luke,” said Pat Goss, the golf coach at Northwestern University and Donald’s swing mentor since he walked on campus in September 1997. “He wanted to play the best.”

Donald never trailed in six matches and opened a 3-up lead over the German through five blustery holes that featured a short stoppage of play on the fourth hole while officials waited for a hail storm to pass.

Not that Donald envisioned another early ending for the 18-hole final when he awoke Sunday morning to see an inch of newly fallen snow on the Dove Mountain track. For those taking early bets, Kaymer was a lock to win the WGC-Downhill Championship – no one tucks and turns like a German.

But the snow and hail melted, eventually. Donald didn’t.

Not even when Kaymer chipped away at Donald’s lead until the two were all square at the turn – the game’s two most consistent players going nine holes and accomplishing nothing – and the world No. 1 elect looked to take the lead when Donald went from a fairway bunker to a desert wash on the 10th hole.

Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald
Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald congratulate each other after Donald's 3-and-2 win over Kaymer the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. (Getty)
But Donald made a putt for par, “like he always did” sighed Kaymer, seemingly flustered for the first time . . . well, ever, and slowly rebuilt his advantage – first at the 11th when Kaymer missed a 5-footer for birdie and then at the 12th with a par.

By the time the two reached the drivable 15th the rout was on and when Kaymer failed to make birdie  – the first time all week he didn’t look every bit the world No. 1 – all that was left was the long drive through the desert back to the clubhouse.

Those who suggest Kaymer backed his way into the top ranking haven’t been paying attention. His Match Play runner-up was his seventh top-10 finish since last year’s breakthrough at the PGA Championship. He’s been the world No. 1 for some time, on Sunday the ranking caught up with that reality.

“Nobody can take that away from me,” Kaymer said.

Nor can anyone ignore the European dominance atop the world order. For the first time since October 1996 there are no Americans in the top 4 in the World Golf Ranking with Donald’s move to third. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but it is the definition of a new era.

Woods’ Round 1 loss at Dove Mountain, the second time he’s been one-and-done at the Match Play, and Phil Mickelson’s Round 2 exit may have robbed the marquee of its biggest names, but it’s hard to argue that the world’s best didn’t deliver bracket-ology gold.

Not that Donald was interested in Transatlantic power shifts. Not after five years of disappointments, not after being questioned in some circles for his apparent inability to close.

For those who mused that Donald was content cashing checks, not chasing titles, the Match Play is a game changer. It’s what drove Donald and Goss back to the drawing board late in 2007.

In simplest terms, Donald was trying to be something he wasn’t – a bomber, which in turn opened the door to bad swing mechanics. So after 2007, a year in which he made it to the Tour Championship and posted two runner-up showings, he and Goss went back to basics.

That process continued through an extended and well-planned off-season after 2010 when Donald spent a month working with Goss in south Florida. On Friday, Donald referred to his action as “a work in progress.” On Sunday, it looked every bit a work of art. That he finally ended his American victory drought was just the what, not the why or how.

“(Not winning) has been in the back of his mind consistently,” Goss said. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that he’s happy finishing second. He works harder now than he ever has and those close losses were heartbreaking to him.”

On Sunday, after the hail storms had moved out of the Oro Valley and with the sun once again illuminating the sprawling layout, Donald had the look of a man who was finally comfortable in his own skin and with his own DNA.

“I’m not a modern player, I don’t hit the ball that far,” he said. “It was frustrating to me . . . There were times where I was very disappointed and very upset that I hadn't broken through, and I can forget about that now.”

What he is is a throwback. A ballstriker with distance control and the ability to move the ball in both directions with an all-world short game. What he is is the world’s third-ranked player with more grit than he’s ever been given credit for. What he is is a three-time Tour winner who is finally out of the victory desert. Now if only someone would show him where Dove Mountain’s 18th hole is.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.