PGA Tour
Donald wins Transitions playoff, gets back to No. 1



Palm Harbor, FL (Sports Network) - Luke Donald birdied the first playoff hole Sunday to win the Transitions Championship and return to No. 1 in the world rankings.

Donald bested third-round co-leader Jim Furyk, Sang-Moon Bae and Robert Garrigus on the 18th hole Sunday at the Copperhead Course. The victory was his fifth on the PGA Tour and after just two weeks away from the top spot in the rankings, the Englishman is back to No. 1.

"I certainly was a lot more nervous the first time, thinking about trying to get to No. 1," Donald said in a televised interview. "This certainly wasn't my focus this time around. I was just focused on trying to win the tournament and it all works out."

Donald posted a final-round, five-under 66 to get in at 13-under 271. Garrigus was first in after a brilliant 64, then Bae joined the mix with a three-under 68. Furyk had a birdie chance at the last, but missed and signed for a two- under 69.

Ernie Els had a great chance at victory, and it was one that would've got him into the Masters. He held a one-shot lead at 14-under par and knocked his approach inside five feet at the 16th. Els missed the putt, then things fell apart for The Big Easy.

His tee ball went way right at the 17th and he made bogey. Els found the fairway at 18, but pulled his approach and left himself with four feet for par. Els missed the putt and lost any chance of a possible playoff.

A clearly agitated Els, who gave a tense interview to Golf Channel's Steve Sands after his round, will now most likely have to win next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational to get into the field at Augusta.

"I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head here," said Els. "If I take stock, I think I'm playing good golf, and I've got to head into the next couple of weeks trying to get a win."

Els shot a four-under 67 Sunday and shared fifth with Scott Piercy, whose early 62 almost held up all day, Jeff Overton (66) and Ken Duke (68) at minus-12.

Bae was the first off in the playoff and hammered one down the fairway. Garrigus out drove him by some 30 yards, then Furyk found the first cut on the left side. Donald drove into the right rough, but hit first and played a spectacular second six feet short of the hole.

Bae's approach rolled almost 20 feet from the stick, then Furyk's second stopped 40 feet away. Garrigus knocked his shot to seven feet, putting himself in great position along side Donald.

Furyk missed his long try, then Bae's ball narrowly ran over the edge of the cup. Garrigus pulled his seven-footer and the door was open for Donald.

The Englishman poured his putt in the side of the cup for the victory.

Donald, who birdied five and six, then made his move with three birdies in a row from the ninth on Sunday, first ascended to No. 1 in a playoff victory over Lee Westwood at last year's BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour.

On Sunday, he wasn't concerned about the top spot in the rankings, but rather an evolving process to finish No. 1 at one of golf's biggest events.

"It's another step in the right direction towards hopefully getting some more confidence and trying to win majors," Donald said on TV. "I feel like I've achieved a lot in my career, but that's obviously a missing step.

"This is perfect preparation. I have two weeks off now and looking forward to Augusta."

Whether it was the goal or not, Donald ended the brief Rory McIlroy era as the No. 1 player. Last year's U.S. Open winner claimed the top spot two weeks ago after his victory at the Honda Classic.

Even McIlroy was able to joke about his quick reign at the top. He tweeted Sunday, "Well I enjoyed it while it lasted!"

Bo Van Pelt shot a five-under 66 on Sunday and took ninth at 11-under 273.

Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Kevin Streelman and Jason Dufner tied for 10th at minus-10.

Retief Goosen shared the third-round lead with Furyk and fell apart immediately on Sunday. He double-bogeyed the par-five opening hole and tallied bogeys at two of his next four holes. He finished with a four-over 75 and tied for 20th at seven-under par.

The two-time U.S. Open winner, who is battling back problems and withdrew from the Arnold Palmer next week, didn't blame the balky back.

"Played like a dog, simple as that," he said. "I could have done better than that, working with the issue on my back, but I wouldn't say my back was any worse."

NOTES: Donald pocketed $990,000 for the victory...This was the first playoff in the history of the tournament...It was also the first four-man extra session since the 2007 Honda Classic...Next week, Martin Laird will defend his title at Bay Hill.

03/18 19:20:18 ET