VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP)—Luke Donald secured the world No. 1 ranking bywinning the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday, beating Lee Westwood in a playoff inwhat was a duel for top spot between the two players.
On the first playoff hole, Donald landed his approach onto the No. 18 greento within a few feet, while Westwood sent his shot into the adjacent waterhazard to decide the tournament at Wentworth.
It is only the second stroke-play title in the past five years for Donald,who joins Westwood and Nick Faldo as the only Englishmen to hold the top spotsince the rankings were introduced in 1986.CASARES, SPAIN - MAY 21: Lee …
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Donald will replace Westwood when the new rankings are released on Monday.His second tour victory this year, and fifth overall, also extends his lead inThe Race to Dubai standings.
“Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it,” said Donald, last year’s runner-up.“It’s an amazing accomplishment. It’s something I will be very proud of when Ilook back. I will savor this moment, it’s very special. I think I will stay thesame person, I hope I do. I’m looking forward to the challenge of staying No. 1.I know Lee and Martin (Kaymer) will be chasing me very hard.”
Having trailed co-leaders Matteo Manassero and Donald by two strokesentering the round, Westwood shot a 3-under 68 and Donald hit a 70 for both tototal 6-under 278.
Simon Dyson of England (69) finished third at 280 after hitting a 69. MarcusFraser of Australia (67), France’s Raphael Jacquelin (71), Shane Lowry ofIreland (67) were two strokes further back.
In a group of seven on 283 was three-time champion Colin Montgomerie (68),who claimed his first top-10 finish in almost three years, and Manassero (75).
It was third time lucky for Donald, who had missed out on becoming No. 1after losing to Ian Poulter in the World Match Play final last week in Spain andgoing down to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff at The Heritage in April.
But his consistency in finishing in the top 10 for the past nine tournaments— including winning the Accenture Match Play event in Arizona in February—ensured his first playoff victory on either the European or U.S. Tour will givehim the No. 1 ranking.
Donald said Westwood’s water-bound approach in the playoff was more down topoor fortune than execution.
“It wasn’t a bad shot, just had a litte bit too much spin on it. It wasjust unfortunate, you don’t like to see that,” Donald said. “Lee is a championand has been a great No. 1 for European golf.”
Westwood couldn’t believe his ball didn’t stay on the green.
“Where did the ball pitch? It’s amazing it went in the water,” Westwoodsaid. “When Luke’s (shot) was in the air, I thought it might have gone in theback bunker.”
A tournament of mostly unimpressive scoring—due to a redesign from ErnieEls that has made the West Course almost unplayable, or to fiendishly difficultpin placements, depending upon whom you believe—continued at the start of thefinal round.
Donald began the day by going bogey-bogey, visibly blanching after duffinghis chip at the par-3 No. 2 from just off the green.
Manassaero double-bogeyed No. 3 after needing two shots to reach the greenfrom an adjacent bunker. Donald birdied the next hole to draw level with theItalian in front again.
Westwood, however, made four birdies in nine holes after a bogey on No. 3 tosit on top of the leaderboard.
Another birdie on the difficult No. 15 green was made possible by one of theshots of the tournament. Having missed the fairway with his driver and receivinga free drop, Westwood carved a 7-iron with draw that rolled within 4 feet of thehole, the putt taking him two strokes ahead of Donald.
That lead evaporated at No. 16.
Westwood three-putted after having dropped his club in his follow-throughfrom the tee. Donald, in the next group, landed his approach within a foot ofthe hole—and the top two players in the world were level again.
Down the home straight, Donald and Westwood mixed the sub-standard with thesublime.
Donald’s birdie putt lipped out on No. 17 after a brilliant rescue shotfollowing an approach that hit a tree. He landed his tee shot into the bunker atNo. 18, not long after Westwood had sent his 5-wood into the gallery at thelast.
“If you’re going to miss your chances, you’ll go into a playoff—and theyare volatile, aren’t they?” Westwood said later.