Luke Donald ran off six straight birdies on the back nine Sunday and closed with an 8-under 64 to come from five shots off the lead and win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic
Donald, who trailed Webb Simpson by $363,029 coming into the final tournament of the year, was two behind Simpson when they made the turn. Then came a performance that ranks among Donald’s best, even in his greatest season of golf.
He holed four straight birdie putts inside 8 feet, took the lead with an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 14th hole, then sealed his stunning rally with a 45-foot birdie on the 15th hole.
It was his second PGA Tour win of the year. Donald also won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. With no one else winning more than twice this year, Donald established himself as a heavy favorite to be PGA Tour player of the year.
The award is a vote of the players, and ballots go out on next week.
Donald also kept alive his bid to become the first player to win the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season. His lead in Europe is just over $1.8 million over Rory McIlroy with five tournaments remaining.
He wound up with a two-shot win over Justin Leonard, who finished with eight pars for a 71. Leonard already is exempt for next year, but kept alive his streak of never finishing out of the top 125 on the money list since joining the tour in 1994.
Donald finished at 17-under 271 and earned $846,000, giving him just over $6.6 million for the year. Simpson was runner-up on the money list, just as he was in the FedEx Cup.
Tom Pernice Jr., a 52-year-old who refuses to give up on playing with guys half his age, closed with a 69 for a three-way tie for third, earning enough money to finish at No. 121 and earn back his PGA Tour card.
Donald only entered Disney after Simpson decided to play at Sea Island last week, and when Simpson was the runner-up to take the lead on the money list, Donald knew his best chance was to win.
Never mind that he was five shots behind to start the final round. Or that it has been five years since he last won a stroke-play event on the PGA Tour. Over the next hour, Donald showed why he is No. 1 in the world.
He matched birdies with Simpson on the easy par-5 10th, and from there, Donald was in his own world. A wedge to 8 feet on the 11th. An 8-iron to 6 feet on the 12th. A lob wedge to 5 feet on the 13th.
The most meaningful shot came at the par-5 14th, where Donald had gone bogey and double bogey the previous two rounds, then pledged to reporters he would make birdie Sunday. He rolled in an 18-foot putt to get his revenge and take the lead.
Kevin Chappell, the PGA Tour rookie who shared the 54-hole lead with Leonard, was tied for the lead when he missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 10th and dropped a shot on the 11th with an approach into the bunker. Chappell closed with a 72 and was in the group at 274 that included Pernice and Sunghoon Kang, who birdied the last hole and moved into the top 125.
GARCIA ENDS WINLESS DROUGHT
Sergio Garcia won his first title in almost three years on Sunday, dominating for the third straight day at the Castello Masters while earning an 11-stroke victory that matched the third-largest margin of victory in European Tour history.
The 31-year-old Garcia, playing on a course where he was club champion at the age of 12, shot an 8-under 63 in the final round to finish at 27-under 257.
Garcia had shot his best ever back-to-back rounds of 63 and 64 to lead the field since Friday, and he did not let up on the final day, recording nine birdies and just his fourth bogey in the event.Fellow Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano finished a distant second, and Alexander Noren was third.
Once ranked No. 2, Garcia had dropped outside the top 75 after near-misses at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie and 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
He has now returned to the top 35 with his second win at the Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, capping his improved season that includes top-12 finishes in the last three majors.
Yani Tseng won the LPGA Taiwan Championship on Sunday for her 10th worldwide victory of the year and third in front of her home fans.
The 22-year-old Taiwanese star closed with a 6-under 66 at Sunrise for a five-stroke victory over Spain’s Azahara Munoz and South Korea’s Amy Yang.
The top-ranked Tseng finished at 16-under 272 and earned $300,000 for her seventh LPGA Tour victory of the season to increase her tour-leading total to $2,873,629. She donated $100,000 to the Taiwan Golf Association to support junior golf.
Tseng won her first four events this year, taking the Taiwanese tour’s Taifong Ladies and sweeping the Australian Women’s Open and Ladies Masters before opening the LPGA Tour season with a victory in the LPGA Thailand.
The LPGA Tour player of the year for the second straight season, Tseng won major titles this summer in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open and has 12 victories in four seasons on the tour.
After opening with rounds of 68, 71 and 67 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round, Tseng birdied the par-3 second and reached 14 under with birdies on the par-5 sixth and par-4 seventh and eighth holes.
She parred the next seven holes, birdied the par-3 16th, increased her lead to four strokes with a par on the par-4 17th and birdied the par-5 18th.
Yang finished with a 67, and Munoz had a 68.
American Morgan Pressel shot a 65 ,the best round of the week in the inaugural tournament, to tie for fourth with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist at 9 under.
IN OTHER NEWS
By winning Sunday at Disney for his second PGA Tour win of the year, Donald won the points-based player of the year award from the PGA of America over Webb Simpson.
Donald is the first British player to win the award since Nick Faldo in 1990.
The PGA Tour player of the year is a vote of the players. Ballots are to be returned by Dec. 9.
The PGA Tour is launching a developmental tour south of the border, hoping it can expand its presence in South America as golf prepares to become an Olympic sport again in 2016 in Brazil.
The “PGA Tour Latinoamerica” will start next year, featuring 11 tournaments that will be played in seven countries, most of them in South America but including Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The tournaments will have 144-man fields consisting primarily of players from the region, although there likely will be some access for Americans who now play the mini-tours. The top players on the Latin American tour then will have access to the Nationwide Tour.
Tournaments are to be played next year from September through December in Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru. The Nationwide Tour already has an event in Colombia, and will have one next year in Chile.
The tour still has to determine how many players from Latin America could advance to the Nationwide Tour. A decision is expected before the Latin American tour starts play.
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman had been represented by Chandler’s International Sports Management since turning professional in 2007. McIlroy will now be affiliated with Horizon.
“I am now keen to move onto the next stage of my career and I feel this will be facilitated by a fresh view and a new structure around me,” McIlroy said in a statement.
ISM said it took “great pride … in guiding him successfully through his formative years as a professional golfer.”
McIlroy, ranked No. 3, thanked Chandler for his “guidance, representation and management.”
“Chubby and his team have played a very important role in my success to date,” he said. “I have made great progress under their management and for that I will always be grateful.”
Tournament host K.J. Choi won the Asian Tour’s C.J. Invitational on Sunday, closing with a 5-under 67 for a two-stroke victory.
The 14th-ranked South Korean star finished at 17 under at Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club.
Countryman Noh Seung-yeol was second after a 66.
American Anthony Kim and third-round leader Lee Ki-sang tied for third at 13 under.
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