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Player: Luke Donald

  • Lexi Thompson is breaking barriers. (Getty Images)

    Lexi Thompson will make Shark Shootout history in December, becoming just the second woman to compete in the two-player team event.

    Thompson will team with fellow Cobra Golf staffer Bryson DeChambeau in the 24-player event, which will be played for the 16th consecutive year at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. She’ll become the first woman to compete in the event since Annika Sorenstam played in 2006.

    The event, hosted by Greg Norman (hence the Shark name), is a 54-hole event with a different format for each round. In the first round, the players compete in a scramble, followed by modified alternate shot and better ball.

    Thompson has a major title among her seven LPGA wins, and she won the Honda LPGA Thailand this season.

    The 21-year-old Thompson and DeChambeau aren’t the only players making their debut. Six others — Justin Thomas, Luke Donald, Russell Knox, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Chappell and Smylie Kaufman — will play for the first time as well.

    Champions Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner and runners-up Matt Kuchar and Harris English will also return to play.

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Luke Donald would be a surprise pick for the Ryder Cup team. (Getty Images)

    They call them wild-card picks for a reason.

    Sometimes, they’re unexpected, and signs point to European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke reaching deep down the points list to find one of his three captain’s picks.

    According to multiple reports, including from USA Today and Golf Digest, Clarke is leaning toward picking Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald with the choices he’ll announce Tuesday. Automatic qualifying ended on Sunday, with nine players officially making the team. Among those nine players are five rookies — Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Rafa Cabrera-Bello — leaving Clarke perhaps looking for some grounding experience with his picks.

    Westwood certainly has that long resume Clarke seeks. He’s been on the European Ryder Cup team since 1997, making nine appearances leading to a 20-15-6 overall record. He was joint runner-up at the Masters, and he’s played fairly well in 2016 on the European Tour.

    Kaymer, who lost his PGA Tour card for this season because he didn’t play enough tournaments last year, has been on a tear on the European Tour.

    The 38-year-old Donald, however, comes as a surprise given the consensus floated names for the third and final pick were Russell Knox, a two-time PGA Tour winner this season, and Belgian Thomas Pieters, who won the Made in Denmark on Sunday to complete a 4-2-1 stretch in his last three events. The former No. 1 has two runner-up finishes dating back to the RBC Heritage in April and stretching through the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago. However, the in-between was nothing special at all.

    Donald, though, does carry a remarkable Ryder Cup record, including in the foursomes format. In four appearances, Donald has a 10-4-1 mark overall, and he’s 6-2-0 in the alternate-shot format and 3-1-0 in the singles matches.

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • OAKMONT, Pa.—Standing on the 12th tee, Dustin Johnson held a two-stroke lead in the U.S. Open. Then several USGA officials approached Johnson, and his lead might not have been so large after all.

    Back on the fifth green, Johnson had stood over a short par putt, then backed off and called in a rules official. His ball had moved. Johnson wanted to let the official know of the movement, and that he had not grounded his club. If he had, he would be facing a one-stroke penalty. [UPDATE: Johnson was indeed penalized, but won the U.S. Open regardless.]

    The rules official at the fifth hole was satisfied that Johnson hadn't incurred a penalty, so Johnson continued on, draining the putt.

    But video replay may have shown rules officials otherwise. USGA officials approached Johnson on the 12th tee to inform him that the tale of the moving ball wasn't yet finished.

    After the discussion with officials on the 12th tee, Johnson's playing partner Lee Westwood appeared to be pleading a case to the USGA officials as they walked toward the fairway. Fox Sports commentator Curtis Strange approached the USGA officials, asking for clarification. They refused.

    "Really?" Strange, a two-time U.S. Open winner, wondered aloud.

    Yes, really.

    USGA officials then informed Johnson that he might be facing a one-stroke penalty. Or he might not. In other words, Johnson would be forced to play the remaining holes not knowing whether he needed to put a two-stroke margin ahead of the rest of the field.

    Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director for Open championships, visited the Fox Sports set soon afterward to indicate that the USGA believed the ball had moved because of Johnson's actions, and asked him—during the critical moments of one of the most important tournaments of his life—if he could think of any other reason why the ball might have moved a fraction of an inch. According to Hall, Johnson did not give a definitive answer, which, given the circumstances, was not surprising. However, it is worth noting that the greens have been mowed, pressed, and dried to a fine sheen, and a ball that might not otherwise move could very well move on Oakmont's slick greens.

    Three former World No. 1s took to Twitter to scorch the USGA for its decisionmaking:

    Soon after the officials spoke with Johnson, Shane Lowry drew within one stroke ... or perhaps he was even. No one would know until the end of the round.
    Johnson, of course, lost a chance at a playoff in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits when a rules committee determined that Johnson had grounded his club on the 18th hole in a poorly-marked bunker. He missed out on a playoff by a single stroke.
  • Ricky Barnes won the 2002 U.S. Amateur, and big things were expected of the California native. There were glimpses of his potential but never any trophies. Now, at 35, Barnes could land his first PGA Tour win on Sunday. 

    On the back of a 5-under 67 on Saturday at TPC San Antonio, Barnes will carry a one-shot lead into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. At 11-under 205, Barnes will take his advantage into Sunday's final group along with 2011 winner and solo second place Brendan Steele, as well Luke Donald, who shares third with Charley Hoffman. 

    Barnes is seeking that first win in 222 PGA Tour starts, with his best-ever finish a tie for second at the rainy and muddy 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island, N.Y. Despite having made $6.65 million in his PGA Tour career, Barnes isn't satisfied having banked a lot of money.

    "I'd be lying if I would say it was a successful career being out here without a win," Barnes said. "This is why you play the game, right? Come in on Sundays and have a chance to win."

    Steele, who played alongside Barnes as he finished T-9 last week at the RBC Heritage, is looking for a follow-up win to a rookie season breakthrough here five years ago. He did well to shoot even-par 72 on Saturday.

    "I played with Ricky last week, and his game is looking really good right now," said Steele. "I was really struggling. I was able to make enough recovery shots to not make many mistakes and I was able to be patient enough and make a couple of birdies at the end."

    Barnes made eight of 10 cuts to start his season but has since missed three of his last five. However, Barnes feels confident that this isn't a one-off.

    "It's not a fluke being out here," said Barnes. "I've been showing a lot lately. Just need to keep what I'm doing the last three days."

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • There's a lot on the line for Luke Donald on Sunday at the RBC Heritage.

    The Englishman and former world No. 1 carries a one-shot lead into the final round at Harbour Town Golf Links, and, with a win, he'll end a nearly four-year worldwide winless skid that dates back to his last victory in May 2012 at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event. Donald's last PGA Tour win came a few months earlier at the Valspar Championship. 

    A win would also end a run of close calls for Donald on Hilton Head Island. Donald has finished on the medal stand five times in 10 prior career starts, including a trio of second-place finishes. 

    Even further, a victory would get Donald, ranked 94th in the world, back into the Masters, a tournament he missed last week for the first time since 2004.

    The problem is that there are three long-term trends working against Donald:

    • Donald hasn't closed out a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2006 Honda Classic. In fact, he's been unable to wrap up 54-hole leads at Harbour Town in 2011 and '14.
    • The winner at Harbour Town in four of the last five years has been at least four shots back going into the final day, including when Jim Furyk won in a playoff last year.
    • Only nine of 21 54-hole leaders or co-leaders this season on the PGA Tour have managed to win.

    Donald isn't concerned with the last two trends, and he's hoping to take what he learned in failing to seal the deal in 2011 and '14 as wisdom for how to take the plaid jacket on Sunday.

    "You can't sit back and make pars," he said. "I've got to go out there and be reasonably aggressive and shoot a good score if I want to win tomorrow."

    More PGA Tour coverage

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Golf is hard, and Jason Day is the latest top player to prove that even the world No. 1 is not immune from a rough afternoon inside the ropes.

    In the final pairing on Saturday at the RBC Heritage, Day moved way back in difficult scoring conditions – the toughest, by average, of the week – after shooting an 8-over 79 that is his career-worst PGA Tour round.

    Day, the top-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, had the proper perspective.

    "It happens," he said.

    It does, and not just to him. When Jordan Spieth was still No. 1 in the ranking, he opened with a stunning 79 at the Northern Trust Open. While it wasn't the score he wanted to shoot, it clearly wasn't an indication of some kind of erosion of his talent. After all, barring two bad swings on Sunday at the Masters, Spieth would have won a second consecutive green jacket without his best stuff all week. 

    Day seemed to take a bad break on the third hole at Harbour Town Golf Links as a sign that Saturday wasn't his.

    "I knew something was up when my ball on the third hole hit a tree and bounced 80 yards right into the hazard," Day said. "And then from there just got a couple of bad breaks. And then kind of the head wasn't quite there after that. And it's really tough to fight that."

    On a golf course where placement is everything, Day continued to find himself in bad spots where getting up-and-down for pars turned out to be very difficult.

    The bad news is that Day now finds himself at 2-over 215 and nine shots back of 54-hole leader Luke Donald. 

    The good news is twofold, believe it or not: He has plenty of room to improve on Saturday and the Harbour Town winner has been four or more shots back of the Saturday night lead in four of the last five years.

    "Just got to come out and try to shoot low, something low, at least," Day said, "and give myself opportunities."

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

    LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Reacting to Jordan Spieth's Masters letdown

  • Ernie Els is still pinching himself. He can't believe Rickie Fowler made a hole-in-one on Monday that raised $1 million for his foundation and its autism-related work.

    On Monday at Old Palm Golf Club in Florida, Fowler was one of nearly two dozen pros who competed in a pro-am event to raise money for Els for Autism, which delivers programs and education for children with autism, including funding the Els Center for Excellence, a school which opened in 2015 in Jupiter, Fla.

    After the tournament was over, pros had an opportunity to play a 19th hole, a 113-yard shot which, if anyone aced, would trigger the $1 million donation from an insurance policy purchased by tournament sponsors SAP and Ketel One. Following some valiant attempts by his fellow players, Fowler, changed out of his golf shoes and into sneakers, borrowed Luke Donald's pitching wedge and took his shot.

    The ball disappeared. The crowd erupted. Els' wife, Liezl, cried, while the four-time major winner lifted Fowler in the air.

    "It's like a miracle,'' Els said, according to ESPN.

    The Els' created the foundation and its autism-specific cause when they learned their son, Ben, now 13, is on the autism spectrum. The family moved from London to West Palm Beach, Fla., in search of better educational resources and medical care.

    "(The $1 million) makes a huge impact immediately,'' he added. "It's brilliant.''

    Even better, South African billionaire and Els friend, Johann Rupert, matched the $1 million donation. Combined with the more than $800,000 raised before Fowler's shot, the day raised nearly $3 million for Els for Autism. That kind of capital means the foundation can move forward with an upper school on the existing Center for Excellence property.

    Els agrees with his wife that Fowler's ace was something beyond their control.

    "That's the first thing Liezl said. 'I think the hand [of God] came down today.' It's kind of one of those things. You've got to agree with her," Els said. "These things happen maybe once in 10 years. It doesn't really happen. It was really amazing.''

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • The PGA Tour's Florida Swing rolls into Tampa this week for the Valspar Championship.

    An updated Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort is site of the first of five PGA Tour title defenses for Jordan Spieth in 2016. The world No. 1 will look to hold off the likes of Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Patrick Reed to become the first player to successfully defend the title. However, to do so, he'll have to survive the Snake Pit, the name for the final three holes on the Copperhead Course.

    Yahoo Sports will stream PGA Tour Live's featured holes coverage from the Snake Pit on Thursday and Friday from 3-6 p.m. Eastern on our Golf page. In that coverage window, you'll be able to see Spieth play on Friday. 

    Here are some of the featured groupings that will come through the Snake Pit in that coverage window:

    Thursday, First Round

    Off No. 10

    12:46 p.m. -- Danny Lee, Brian Gay, David Toms
    12:57 p.m. -- Brendon de Jonge, Cameron Tringale, Chad Collins
    1:08 p.m. -- Boo Weekley, George McNeill, Will MacKenzie

    Off No. 1

    12:24 p.m. -- Harris English, Webb Simpson, Nick Taylor
    12:35 p.m. -- Geoff Ogilvy, Martin Kaymer, K.J. Choi
    12:46 p.m. -- Jason Dufner, Justin Thomas, Russell Knox
    12:57 p.m. -- Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen

    Friday, Second Round

    Off No. 10

    12:24 p.m. -- Vaughn Taylor, Brian Harman, Kevin Streelman
    12:35 p.m. -- Steven Bowditch, Ben Crane, Brendon Todd
    12:46 p.m. -- Padraig Harrington, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Palmer

    Off No. 1

    12:24 p.m. -- Keegan Bradley, Kevin Na, Branden Grace
    12:35 p.m. -- Luke Donald, Stewart Cink, Danny Willett
    12:46 p.m. -- Graeme McDowell, Patrick Reed, Hunter Mahan
    12:57 p.m. -- Jordan Spieth, Bill Haas, Henrik Stenson

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

    LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Our conversation with golf legend Gary Player

  • Count Sergio Garcia as the latest European player to become a tournament host on the European Tour. 

    On Wednesday, the European Tour and tournament organizers announced Garcia would host the Spanish Open, which will be played this year from April 14-17, the week after the Masters, at Valderrama. 

    Valderrama, which hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup and the 1999 WGC-American Express Championship, will be host of the Spanish Open for the first time.

    “This is a new whole new way of working together with the European Tour and I am very proud to be a part of it,” Garcia said.

    Celebrity players hosting tournaments in their home country has become a bit of a trend on the European Tour, with Ernie Els (South African Open), Rory McIlroy (Irish Open) and Paul Lawrie (Match Play) assuming that ambassador role. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have teamed up to serve as a rotation of hosts for the revived British Masters.

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Former world No. 1 Luke Donald almost walked away from professional golf last May.

    The Englishman, who had last been atop the Official World Golf Ranking in August 2012, had grown so frustrated with his lack of form that he strongly considered giving up the game. He had fallen ouf of the world top 50, the water mark for being in golf's elite, and was still reeling from not getting the call to represent Europe at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

    Perhaps it all stemmed from a poor decision to hire Chuck Cook as his coach, walking away from a successful relationship with Pat Goss, his Northwestern University coach and swing instructor. No matter what got him to where he was, Donald was doubting if it was all worth the toil.

    “My confidence had taken a big knock, and I asked myself if I wanted to continue doing this,” Donald said to The Telegraph in the U.K.

    “I wasn’t enjoying it, finding it so very hard and could not see much light at the end of the tunnel. But then I told myself not to be a baby, to grow up and realize how lucky I was. I was still playing golf for a living.”

    Donald decided to find a way forward instead of a place to hide. He began working with sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais, trying to figure out if a mental block was holding him back.

    “He just reminded me that it’s up to me what mood or mindset I’m in,” Donald said. “When you’re in a slump it’s easy to forget you’re still the one who is in control.” 

    Donald, now 78th in the world, is hoping he'll take control of his emotions and his form in 2016. After posting just one top-five finish a year ago, coming at the British Masters, Donald will have to quickly amass world ranking points to get inside the top 50 or win on the PGA Tour to qualify for the Masters for the 12th year in a row. 

    That quest starts this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    "Of course, the goal is to get back in the top 50, then get back in the top 25, start getting some top 10s again, start winning tournaments again and just get back into that feeling," he said. 

    “I think I have a little bit of a way to go, but I’m feeling confident that I can get back to at least close to the level I was a few years ago."

    Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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