Donald wins BMW PGA for second straight year, this time by four shots

Luke Donald at the BMW PGA Championship
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His second straight victory at the BMW PGA Championship means that Luke Donald returns to the world No. 1 ranking.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Luke Donald turned on the style again at Wentworth on Sunday to retain the BMW PGA Championship and grab the world No. 1 spot back from Rory McIlroy.

Donald's sixth victory in the last 15 months makes him only the third player -- Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are the others -- to win the European Tour's flagship event two years in a row.

After being caught by Justin Rose four holes into the final round, the 34-year-old Donald put his foot on the accelerator to go clear once more.

Once he had gone three clear with a 25-foot putt at the short 10th, Donald, the most reliable player in the game right now with the possible exception of America's man of the moment Jason Dufner, never looked back.

Playing with supreme confidence, he ended up taking the first prize of almost £600,000 by four strokes over Rose and former British Open champion Paul Lawrie with an accomplished closing 68 and 15-under-par total of 273.

"What a great one to do it at. This is our biggest event on the European Tour," said Donald after his first successful defense of a title. "To come and defend and get back to No. 1 is very sweet indeed.

"I was just trying to keep my head down and plug away. I was swinging well and I've putted well all week," he explained. "I just needed to settle down a bit. This is a big week and I felt some of the pressure. After the fourth I didn't give him (Rose) another hole where he was teeing off first other than the 18th. I got the job done.

"I take a great amount of satisfaction," he said. "It means I am doing the right things -- the hard work is paying off and I have a great team around me."

Only a top-eight finish had been required for him to move back to No. 1 for the fourth time once McIlroy had missed the cut -- by a shocking eight shots -- on Friday. That meant his latest success was never going to hit the heights of drama of last year, when he dethroned Lee Westwood by beating him in a playoff.

That was the start of Donald's first reign, one that was to continue until this March, but he and McIlroy have now changed places six times since then.

On this week's evidence there is a gulf between them, but the 23-year-old Northern Irishman, who has crashed out early from his last two tournaments, now heads back to America for what he hopes is the start of a big comeback.

Donald will also be at the Memorial tournament in Ohio starting on Thursday, but it is the U.S. Open in San Francisco on June 14-17 that his sights are now on. Play like this and a first major will finally be his.

Asked what was next on his wish list, Donald said: "Obviously win majors. I feel I am getting closer. Every time I win it adds to my confidence. These victories are key to bringing that confidence into the majors."

Lawrie hit a best-of-the-day 66 to catch Rose, and the 43-year-old Scot is now closing in on securing a return to the Ryder Cup after a gap of 13 years. Controversially, he has chosen not to go to the U.S. Open, preferring to stay on this side of the Atlantic to pursue his goal.

Rose, round in 69, would have been second on his own but for missing a five-foot birdie putt on the last. But with a world championship win earlier this season, he feels it could be a special season, too.

"Luke's putter really" was the difference in the final round, Rose said. "He buried a lot of putts in the middle of the round and there were no loose shots coming down the stretch."

Rose, two behind at the start, was level when he birdied the long fourth and Donald three-putted for bogey. In went putts of 14 and 18 feet at the sixth and seventh, though, and then came what seemed at the time like the killer blow on the 10th.

The gap went to five at the 16th when Donald sank a nine-footer and Rose, plugged in the sand in two, bogeyed.

First Lawrie and then Rose cut the difference to four, but it was all too late to revive their title hopes with Donald in such impressive form.

Rose, so close now to taking a place in the world's top five for the first time, would certainly have settled for second on Thursday. He feared he might have to pull out just before the start because of dizziness and spent an hour with a doctor.

Lawrie, who reached a high of 29th in the world back in 2000, could now move back into the top 30 only 14 months after he stood 272nd -- and for the first time he can call himself Scotland's top player. When he won the British Open from 159th in the world in 1999, Colin Montgomerie was riding high at fifth in the rankings.

"You're never unhappy when you shoot 66, but really it should have been a few less," said Lawrie. "When you get on a bit of a run the confidence goes up and right now it's probably never been better.''

On not entering for the US Open, he added: "I made the decision a long time ago that it was better for my schedule. I knew some people wouldn't like it, but it's the best for me.''