After one round of the Transitions Championship, all of the talk surrounded the fast start of Padraig Harrington. But by the end of the tournament, a familiar face was sitting on top. Luke Donald outlasted three other golfers in a playoff to claim his first title of 2012. In the process, Donald returned to the top of the World Golf Rankings.
After a slow start this year, Donald looked like the same golfer that won the PGA and European money titles in 2011. More importantly, he looks like a guy with momentum as the first major of the year approaches.
Harrington was a major story after opening with a 61 to take a three-shot lead. However, he failed to break par in any of the last three rounds and finished in a tie for 20th. It was a disappointing finish for a golfer that has been searching for a way to get back on top. But Harrington's misfortune opened the door for Donald. He shot a 66 in the final round to move into a tie with Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus, and Sang-Moon Bae. His strong play continued in the playoff and Donald was able to leave with another title. His final round had no bogeys, and he ended up shooting better than par in all four rounds.
With Rory McIlroy not playing, the door was open for Donald to reclaim the top ranking in the world. He ceased the opportunity with a pretty impressive performance. It could be argued that no golfer is more consistent than Donald. It seems like he is lurking in every tournament. His play in the first three rounds enabled him to be in position to make his move and win this event. That is the threat he always poses in a golf tournament.
Now that he has a 2012 title under his belt, no one will talk about his slow start anymore. Instead, they will talk about his ability to win a major. So far, Donald has not won any of the four biggest events in golf. It seems like it is only a matter of time before a player with his talent wins one. This win should give him confidence heading into the Masters. There is no question that he would love to get the monkey off of his back as soon as possible.
As always, more people are going to be concerned about McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson. But Donald is the top player in the world. No one should take him lightly.* - Mark Paul is an avid golf fan. He has watched and played the game since high school.
- Luke Donald
- Padraig Harrington