Blue Sky thinking

Donald wins stunning Match Play title in record fashion

German runner-up Martin Kaymer has to console himself with top world ranking.

THE WEIRDEST WEEK ever at the Match Play Championship ended with what must have felt like a strange sensation for Luke Donald last won a PGA Tour event, though it certainly was not from a lack of effort.

Players don’t crack the top 10 in the world without doing something right. But this was a week when almost nothing went wrong.

When he closed out Martin Kaymer on the 16th hole last night, the 33-year-old Englishman had won his first World Golf Championship with a performance that is stunning by the numbers alone:

  • He played 89 holes in six matches, the fewest ever in the 13-year history of this event, and became the first player to never trail after any hole in any match. Donald led his opponent after 81 of those 89 holes.
  • He made 32 birdies, which is slightly better than one every three holes.
  • He became the first player to win any tournament without ever having to play the 18th hole. Donald’s longest match was in the second round when he beat Edoardo Molinari on the 17th hole.

Donald won the Madrid Masters last year on the European Tour against a relatively week field. This time, he beat the best.

“I solely focus on trying to win tournaments,” Donald said. “I felt like I hadn’t won my fair share for as good a player as I felt I was and could be. It was disappointing. It was frustrating to me. To come here and compete against the best players in the world and win the trophy is very gratifying.”

As for the rest of the week, it was surreal.

It started with Tiger Woods losing in the first round by hitting a 3-wood into the desert on the first extra hole. Then came Saturday, and the greatest comeback in Accenture Match Play Championship when Bubba Watson rallied from five down with eight holes to play to beat JB Holmes on the 19th hole, after perhaps the longest time it took to take a drop.

Sunday morning was off the charts.

Donald drew back the curtains in his hotel room to see Dove Mountain covered in snow. An overnight winter storm dropped nearly an inch of snow in the high desert, and four hours before the championship match, the fairways were white.

The snow melted in plenty of time, but on the fourth hole against Kaymer, play was halted for 10 minutes because sleet covered the fairway and green. They had to wait for it to melt.

“It was kind of bizarre crouching under my umbrella like that,” Donald said. “We had to pause for 10 or 15 minutes just for the green to dry out. It was testing conditions.”

That was about the only big test he faced all week.

Top spot

Kaymer’s consolation prize was going to No 1 in the world, which he assured just by reaching the championship match. He earned enough points as the runner-up to replace Lee Westwood, who had been there for 17 weeks.

Westwood at No 1 brought out the critics because when he took over for Tiger Woods, he had only three wins on his two-year ledger for the world ranking. That wasn’t an issue for Kaymer, whose seven wins over the last two years includes a major. Donald, with his 3-and-2 victory to beat Kaymer, went up to a career-best No 3. That made him pause.

Whether I deserve No 3 in the world, I don’t know. Certainly in terms of my work ethic and wanting it, then I do deserve it.

Asked to explain what he meant, Donald again mentioned his lack of wins.

The Match Play counts as his third PGA Tour victory, and first since the 2006 Honda Classic. He has won three times in Europe. He expected more out of himself.

Even so, he was dismissive of anyone who would suggest he was playing for the money. An American writer a few years ago, writing for the British press, referred to anyone satisfied with a big check as having “Luke Donald disease.”

During his press conference, a prominent British journalist mentioned Donald’s critics and asked if he had noticed them and took satisfaction out of shutting them up.

“I’ve noticed a few of yours,” Donald said with a grin. “I try not to pay too much attention. But the media is hard to escape. And I think unfairly at times, I’ve kind of been … depicted as someone that is very happy contending, picking up checks, but doesn’t really care about winning. And that is really as far away from the truth as it can be.

I feel like my work ethic is as good as any player out here,. I work very hard trying to think about ways to keep improving, keep getting better. And winning is what it’s all about.

His work on the short game cannot be questioned, for it carried Donald to victory against Kaymer.


Donald opened a 3-up lead through five holes, the most impressive at No. 4 after the sleet delay, when Donald stuffed his approach into 2 feet and Kaymer missed his 7-foot birdie.

The German came right back and squared the match after nine holes, then appeared to have the advantage on the 10th when Donald went from the desert into a waste area short of the green. It’s a tough shot from compacted sand, not knowing how the ball will come out. Donald blasted out to three feet to halve the hole, and he won the 11th and 12th to take command.

From short of the 15th green, he hit a delicate wedge to three feet and went three up with three holes to play.

“It was a very good week for me,” Kaymer said. “Of course, I was hoping to win today. I was trying everything I could. I just didn’t play as good as the last few days. And the way Luke plays, even a decent round isn’t enough.”

A decent week wasn’t good enough for Donald. He fixed that with a week unlike any other, and the biggest win of his career.