Marana, Arizona. The Match Play Championship ended with what must have felt like a strange sensation for England’s Luke Donald. He was posing on Sunday with a trophy on American soil.
Donald spoiled Germany’s Martin Kaymer’s rise to No. 1 in the world by winning with a performance so dominant he never played the 18th hole all week.
On a bizarre final day in the high desert, which began with snow covering the fairways, Donald pulled ahead for good with a birdie on the par-5 11th and a par on the next hole, eventually closing out Kaymer on No. 16 for a 3-and-2 victory.
The consolation prize for Kaymer is going to No. 1 in the world rankings, which he guaranteed by reaching the championship match.
Donald was in more dire need of this trophy, however.
It was his first win in America in five years, and it was only his second win worldwide since he captured the 2006 Honda Classic. The 33-year-old Englishman had done just about everything right except win.
“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.”
In what was a week like no other in the 13-year history of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Donald played only 89 holes in six matches and never trailed in any of them. In fact, he led after 81 of those holes.
“It feels amazing,” Donald said. “I had a bit of a monkey on my back. I hadn’t won in the US in five years.”
Donald won his first World Golf Championship, and became the second player from England to capture the Match Play Championship. He goes to a career-best No. 3 in the world to continue a European resurgence.
The top four when the rankings come out will be Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Donald and Graeme McDowell. It’s the first time since March 15, 1992, that the top four spots have been occupied by Europeans.
Matt Kuchar defeated Bubba Watson in the consolation match and will go to No. 10 in the world.
“It’s fantastic to have four Europeans up there,” Kaymer said. “It was always Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.”
“I’m sure Tiger and Phil will chase us,” he added. “But the guys who are up there are very consistent, good players, so I can see them staying there for a while.”