Donald plunges after water ball on 15th
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Luke Donald, the world’s top-ranked player, isn’t prone to creating controversy or being critical about many things on the golf course. When he spoke out before the tournament against the par-3 15th, a downhill hole fronted by water that can stretch to 265 yards, people took note.
Were the golf gods listening? Donald, who had played his first 14 holes in 4 under par, dunked his tee shot in the pond on 15 yesterday, derailing the momentum he had created and ending any chance he had at winning the 93d PGA Championship.
“I thought I had to press a little bit hard and take on some pins on those last few holes,’’ said Donald, who was four shots behind and tied for fourth when he arrived at the 15th tee. “Obviously, I hit a poor shot on 15. Just didn’t strike it well enough.’’
The 15th had Donald’s number all week: He doubled it on Thursday, then made two pars before his final-round bogey.
“I’ve never been a big fan of long par-3s,’’ Donald said before the tournament. “Just seems like you take a little bit of the skill out of it. I think a par-3 should be shorter and more interesting.’’
Good showing Keegan Bradley’s victory ended the United States drought at six majors, but Anders Hansen and Robert Karlsson made it interesting for a while. Hansen, a 40-year-old from Denmark, shot 66 to finish third, his best finish in a major. Karlsson tied 2001 PGA champion David Toms for fourth, shooting a 67 to finish 5 under. The 41-year-old Swede had it at 8 under after making eagle on No. 12, but closed with three straight bogeys.
“Very proud of myself,’’ said Hansen. “Obviously, you play a major, it’s tough. The course is set up tough.’’
Chubby slammed A 68 matched his lowest score of the week, but the best Lee Westwood could do was a tie for eighth.
Not bad, but it guaranteed there will be no Grand Slam winner this year. At least no Chubby Slam.
The first three major champions of the year - Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Rory McIlroy (US Open), and Darren Clarke (British Open) - are represented by agent Andrew “Chubby’’ Chandler. Westwood is also part of the International Sports Management stable, ranked No. 2 in the world, and was hoping his first major victory would give his agent four straight. Not to be. Schwartzel had a final-round 71 and tied for 12th.
Third not a charm If the PGA returns to Atlanta Athletic Club, changes to the course will likely be made. McIlroy wouldn’t mind a totally new third hole. Not only was it the hole where he hit a tree root and suffered a right wrist and forearm injury, he also played the hole in 6 over par: bogeys the first three days, and a triple bogey in the final round, when he shot 74 and tied for 64th at 11 over.
“Has not been a great hole for me this week,’’ McIlroy deadpanned.
What ended up being an eventful major season is over for McIlroy, who blew a four-shot, final-round lead at the Masters, won the US Open by eight strokes, tied for 25th at the British Open, and had any chance for the PGA derailed three holes in.
“To be honest I’m glad to be done. It was a struggle,’’ said McIlroy, whose next appearance in the United States will likely come at the Match Play in February, when he’s expected to accept PGA Tour membership once again. “I basically played 70 holes of this tournament not at 100 percent, so it was always going to be tough.’’
Hot in Atlanta Toms made a spirited attempt at a venue repeat, shooting 67 to tie for fourth, three shots out of the playoff. “I don’t know, I just feel comfortable in Atlanta,’’ he said . . . Scott Verplank put a ball in the water on the 17th hole and made double bogey, ruining his chance at becoming the only player in the field with four scores in the 60s. Verplank closed with 70 . . . Ricky Barnes made five consecutive birdies, from Nos. 4-8, then gave back almost all of them by making a quadruple-bogey 8 on the final hole . . . Mike Small, the only club professional to make the cut, closed with a 78 - he played his last eight holes in 8 over - and tied for 69th at 12 over . . . Nick Watney, who took a three-shot lead into the final round of last year’s PGA before closing with 81, had a 70 this time, and also tied for 12th.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com.