PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The battle for the No. 1 ranking has been a game of musical chairs this season. Luke Donald knew he had to finish fourth on his own this week to pull the seat away from Rory McIlroy. When the music stopped, he came up just short.
The Northern Irishman’s backside gets to keep the seat warm -- until next time. The No. 1 spot has changed five times this year already. Donald finished tied sixth, so at least the Englishman can notch another top 10.
Donald began the week suffering with sinus problems.
“I didn’t feel hot on Thursday,” he said. “You just feel like crap. Low on energy and ears blocked. When I got on the first tee, I felt like I had just gotten off a boat.”
He finished the week sailing with six birdies on the back nine for a six-under-par 66 that set a clubhouse target of nine under par. Donald said he knew he had to finish fourth on his own to get back to No.1.
“Once I made three birdies in a row on 10, 11 and 12 and narrowly missed one on 13, then made a good par on 14, I thought to myself, let’s try and birdie the last four to shoot 29 because I thought that would be kind of cool around the back nine at Sawgrass.”
A par at the last meant he missed that goal, but a 30 was an impressive way to finish the week. Next stop for Donald is defending his BMW PGA Championship title at Wentworth in two weeks. It was there on the outskirts of London that Donald defeated Lee Westwood in a playoff last year to become No.1 for the first time. How did it feel getting to the game’s summit for the first time then, compared to know when he seems to be sharing it with McIlroy?
“It’s different,” he said. “I think I was very nervous when I had opportunities to get to No.1. I didn’t do it at Hilton Head (last year). I didn’t do it a couple of weeks later at the Volvo World Match Play, and it was really playing on my mind. I got there in the end at Wentworth, and in good style. But after that, going back and forward, it hasn’t meant as much to me.
“I like to be No.1. There’s no fluke in getting to No.1. It’s two years of hard work and being consistent. But in my career, I’m still searching to win majors, and that’s much more important.”