Donald stays the course
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Luke Donald was never closer than six shots off the lead after the opening round of the British Open. But in another example of his consistency, he wound up tied for fifth with a guy who played in the final group Sunday.
Donald, who began the final round 10 shots behind, closed with a 1-under-par 69. Graeme McDowell, who played in the final group, also finished at 2-under 278 for the tournament.
‘‘It was one of those rounds where I did a lot of good things,’’ Donald said. ‘‘Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite hole the putts, but I’ll take a lot of positives away from this week. Certainly, I’ll leave this week knowing that my game is definitely good enough to win the majors. It’s a big step forward for me from a few weeks back.’’
Donald missed the cut at the US Open but was a strong favorite at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, as the No. 1 player in the world whose game seemed to be a good fit. His putter let him down.
‘‘In previous Open Championships, I have struggled on the greens,’’ Donald said. ‘‘They’re 300 years old and they settle a little bit and they’re very tough to read. I felt like I hit a lot of good shots today, good putts. But it wasn’t quite finding the bottom of the hole. I’ll come away from here with a lot of confidence that my game tee-to-green was easily good enough to win this week.’’
Donald won’t have to wait long for the next one.
He heads to Ohio in a week for the World Golf Championship at Firestone, followed by the PGA Championship, the final major of the year, at Kiawah Island. No other player has held the No. 1 ranking longer — 54 weeks — without having a major to their credit.
Ernie Els winning the British Open means 16 players have won the last 16 majors, the second-longest streak since the Masters began in 1934.
There were 18 different winners in the mid-1980s, starting with Larry Nelson in the 1983 US Open at Oakmont and going through Nick Faldo’s first major in the 1987 British Open at Muirfield.
There’s one difference about this streak, however.
In the 1980s, eight of those 18 players had already won majors. In this one, only three had previously won a major championship — Els (three times), Phil Mickelson (three times), and Angel Cabrera.
Rory McIlroy on the bench at the Ryder Cup? He isn’t ruling it out.
In the last four majors, McIlroy has failed to finish better than 40th and missed one cut. He renewed hopes with a 67 in the opening round of the British Open, only to fall well back with rounds of 75, 73, and a closing 73 on Sunday. It continues a trend of poor play since he lost in a playoff at Quail Hollow the first week of May. He has missed four cuts and had a pair of top-10s, though was never in contention.
Next up is a World Golf Championship at Firestone, the PGA Championship, and, eventually, the Ryder Cup.
‘‘The thing about Ryder Cup, I’m going to be left out if I’m not playing too good,’’ McIlroy, 23, said. ‘‘No, it’s fine. Like I said, I’ve just got to stay patient and just keep working away and it will turn around. Everyone goes through little struggles. What I’m experiencing at the minute is frustrating at times, but it’s not anything that I can’t deal with.’’
Vijay Singh didn’t make a single birdie in the final round, and still had one of the better scores Sunday. That’s because he didn’t make a bogey. Singh made 18 pars for a 70, which was enough to move him into the top 10, his first top-10 finish since the 2009 PGA Championship. Faldo also made 18 pars in the final round of the British Open in 1992 at Muirfield. The difference is Faldo won the claret jug . . . Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark held his own until a double bogey on the fourth hole. He stayed on the leaderboard the rest of the day, which comes with one big perk. He tied for ninth, and the top 10 return to the British Open next year. Olesen got in this year through the International Final Qualifying in Europe. Alexander Noren and Thomas Aiken also finished in the top 10 and are guaranteed a spot at Muirfield next year. Both qualified this year through the European Tour money list. Geoff Ogilvy, who recently fell out of the top 50, closed with a 67 to tie for ninth . . . The top four and ties also get into the Masters. Els gets a five-year exemption, Adam Scott moved into the top 10, Tiger Woods is a four-time Masters champion, and Brandt Snedeker also is deep into the top 50. They likely would get invitations, anyway . . . Andres Romero turned heads Sunday, not because of how he played but for who was carrying his bag. Romero fell out of contention with a 77 in the third round, so he decided to give his caddie, Anibal ‘‘Coco’’ Nunez, the day off and replace him with Carlos Tevez, the Argentine star who plays for nearby Manchester City in the Premier League. Either Tevez should stick to his day job, or Romero needs to give his caddie a raise. Romero closed with an 82 . . . Mark Calcavecchia ran out of steam in the final hour with bogeys on two of his last four holes, though he still had a 72 and tied for ninth. Not bad for a 52-year-old who is on his way to the Senior British Open at Turnberry.