By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- For 15 holes on Saturday at the PGA Championship, Luke Donald looked poised to position himself at or near the top of the leaderboard. But like so many others, his round was wrecked over the final holes, specifically the 16th and 18th.
The world’s top-ranked player in pursuit of his first career major title suffered a major blow with a bogey on the par-4 16th and a water-logged double bogey on the par-4 finishing hole Saturday on his way to a 2-under 68 that could have been so much better.
Instead, Donald is 1 under with one round to play in the year’s final major.
“Obviously, the finish leaves a bitter taste in my mouth,” Donald said. “It’s just a shame to waste it the way I did at the end.”
At one point, Donald was as low as 5 under with six birdies and just one bogey through his first 14 holes. He had a chance to add to that on the difficult par-3 15th, but he missed a 10-foot birdie putt.
One hole later, he missed the green on the 476-yard par 4 and wasn’t able to get up and down for par. Two holes later disaster struck.
After finding a fairway bunker off the tee, Donald was forced to lay up on the 484-yard 18th. He hit 9-iron from 143 yards but came up short of the back right pin and landed in the water en route to a double bogey.
Donald wasn’t the first to have his round undone by the diabolical finishing hole, and he won’t be the last.
“It’s certainly playable,” said Donald, who hit a hybrid off the tee because anything more would have brought the rough into play and left him an awkward angle into play. “There’s no let-up, there’s no bail out. I don’t really play it like a par 5. It’s very hard to it attack it and give yourself a mid to short iron in there because the way the fairway contours and the angle of the tee shot, it’s just a very tight tee shot if you want to take that on.
“They moved the tee up but it still doesn’t really change the hole. I still feel like I’m hitting it to a certain area, so I’m just clubbing down. ”
While Donald said he doesn’t think the hole is “gimmicky,” he was of course not pleased with his finish.
“I am angry,” Donald said. “I had something really good going there, and kind of threw it away.”
And possibly his first major championship right along with it.