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Donald charges to win at Disney

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Associated Press
October 24, 2011
— Under the greatest pressure, Luke Donald delivered his finest performance.

Donald felt his only chance to capture the PGA Tour money title—and state a clear case as player of the year—was to win at Disney in the final tournament of the year.


“It was do or die,” Donald said.


That’s what made his victory Sunday in the Children’s Miracle Network Classic his most gratifying win of the year. Five shots behind going into the final round, and still four shots out of the lead with nine holes to play, Donald left little doubt who was No. 1—in the world ranking, and now on the PGA Tour.


Donald ran off six straight birdies to blow past Webb Simpson on the leaderboard and on the money list, closing with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot victory over Justin Leonard that makes him a clear favorite for PGA Tour player of the year.


“I told you guys on Wednesday that the goal was to win. Nothing was really going to be good enough other than that,” Donald said. “I think this is probably one of the most satisfying wins of my career just because of that.”


Not only was Donald four shots out of the lead at the turn, he was two shots behind Simpson, who had a $363,029 lead on the money list.


Donald 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.


Simpson shot 69 and tied for sixth.


Donald won for the second time this year on tour, as many as anyone else. He also won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. He finished in the top 10 in 74 percent of his starts.


And now, he has his first PGA Tour money title with $6.68 million—along with a seven-figure bonus from sponsor Ralph Lauren.


The PGA Tour player of the year award is a vote of the players, and ballots go out next week.


Donald, who finished at 17-under 271 and earned $846,000, was asked to make a case for someone other than him.


“Not sure I could at the moment,” he said. “I think I’ve answered everyone’s questions. Coming into this week, I felt like Webb was probably the favorite, based on he was ahead of me on the money list and he was ahead of me in wins this year. Obviously, I’ve drawn level on wins and I’ve gotten ahead on money.”


“Feels like I’ve answered all the questions thrown at me.”


Simpson wasn’t quite sure.


“I don’t know yet,” Simpson said, who won twice and was No. 2 on the money list and the FedEx Cup. “I think I’ve played great. Luke has played great. Couple other guys have played well. Still probably up in the air a little bit. But I’m sure I’ll vote for myself.”


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.


Leonard finished with eight pars for a 71. He 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.


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.


LPGA Taiwan Championship

Yani Tseng won the LPGA Taiwan Championship for her 10th worldwide victory of the year and third in front of her adoring home fans in Yang Mei, Taiwan.


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.


Tseng finished at 16 under and earned $300,000 for her seventh LPGA Tour victory of the season to push 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, the top-ranked Tseng won major titles this summer in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open.


Yang finished with a 67, and Munoz had a 68.



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