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Donald returns to No. 1 after Wentworth repeat

ESPN staff
May 27, 2012 « Barry set for decisive Monday scan | Chartbeat test »

BMW PGA Championship leaderboard

Luke Donald reclaimed the world No. 1 spot on Sunday as he became just the third player to defend his BMW PGA Championship title.

Donald marked the one-year anniversary of his ascension to the head of the world rankings by reclaiming the top spot from Rory McIlroy - who missed the cut at Wentworth by eight shots on Friday.

Donald held a two-shot lead going into the final day and only fleetingly looked like relinquishing that, eventually winning by four shots.

With the victory, Donald followed in the footsteps of Sir Nick Faldo (1980-81) and Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000) as the only players to successfully retain the title at the Surrey event.

Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie shared second, with the Scot rising up the leaderboard after a fine final round 66.

"What a great event to defend at," Donald, who had never previously defended one of his titles, said. "To get back to No. 1, as a side note, is very sweet.

"I putted well all week. I certainly felt some of the pressure going out as the leader but I got the job done and I'm very pleased about it."

Rose started the day two shots behind Donald but had drawn back on level terms by the fourth, as Donald made an uncharacteristic hash of a relatively simple pitch shot to three-putt his way to a bogey.

The world No. 2 would not be flustered, however, and picked up three birdies between the sixth and 10th thanks to metronomic mid-range putts as his playing partner could only reel off par after par.

By the 16th tee Donald found himself three clear of Rose, and it was at the short par-four where the tournament was effectively decided. While Donald clipped a controlled nine-iron to within seven feet of the pin, Rose could only fly his aggressive approach into the back bunker - a costly mistake that would end with a bogey.

Donald, meanwhile, would hole his putt - just as he had done from that range almost all day - giving himself a cushion that would allow him to win despite only making pars at the two closing par-fives.

"The putter was the difference, he buried a lot in the middle of the round," Rose said. "He just played really well today, there were no loose shots down the stretch.

"It's frustrating to finish in a tie for second, but you can make mistakes when you are pushing for those birdies to try and catch the leader."

Lawrie, the former Open champion, played the best golf of the day - making eagle at the fourth and picking up five further birdies (and just one solitary bogey) on the way to six-under par round that helped him tie Rose at 11-under.

Another Lawrie, Irishman Peter Lawrie, came fourth, thanks to a snaking 30-footer for birdie at the final hole.

Two birdies in the opening six holes had seen the other Lawrie play himself to the fringes of contention for the title, before an ugly triple-bogey at the seventh stopped those thoughts in their tracks.

That disappointment seemed to unsettle him going into the back nine, but two birdies at the closing par-fives saw him secure one of the most lucrative finishes of his professional career.

South African Branden Grace, a two-time winner already this season, capped off a fine week with a 70 to round out the top five at seven-under. The South African endured a nervy start but came home in 35 to complete a great week.

Grace narrowly edged out compatriot Richard Sterne, who was another to earn himself a few extra pounds thanks to a late birdie. A regulation four at the 18th saw Sterne sneak under-par for the day with a round of 71, good enough to put him on his own in sixth at six-under. . Elsewhere, Marcel Siem sneaked inside the top ten thanks in great part to a memorable hole-in-one at the par-three second. The German used that momentum to fire himself to a round of 69, good enough for a five-under par finish that was matched by Italian Francesco Molinari (71).

After launching a tirade at the greenskeepers on Saturday, Ernie Els apologised to the European Tour on Sunday and brought his tournament to a close by also finishing five-under.

David Drysdale and James Morrison, the leading duo after 36 holes, both finished four-under for the tournament after recovering following harrowing experiences on Saturday. That was a score also matched by Ian Poulter and Alvaro Quiros.

Other notable performances saw Martin Kaymer and Rafael Cabrera-Bello finish three-under, with former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel a shot further back at two-under.

Meanwhile Lee Westwood, loser to Donald in a play-off in this event 12 months ago, had to settle for an altogether more disappointing finish this year, as a final round 74 left him just outside the top 30 at one-over.

But it was Donald's day, as he now targets that elusive major crown.

"It's of great satisfaction to go a whole year and still be world No. 1," said Donald. "It means I'm doing something right. I've certainly got a great team around me.

"I feel like I'm getting closer to winning majors. Every time I get a win like this it builds my confidence."

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