HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Luke Donald lost this latest chance at No. 1. He is confident he will get another opportunity.
Donald fell in a three-hole playoff at The Heritage after Brandt Snedeker closed with a surprising 7-under 64. The 33-year-old Donald could have jumped up from No. 3, surpassing previously top-ranked Martin Kaymer and fellow Englishman and Ryder Cup partner, Lee Westwood, at No. 2. Instead, Westwood takes over the top spot after winning the Indonesian Masters earlier Sunday.
“To be No. 1 would’ve been great, but it’s not everything,” Donald said. “It certainly would be a tick in the box and it would be something great to talk to the grandkids in 30 years time and say that you were the best in the world, but I still have a lot of chances to do that.”
Donald appeared on his way to the top after back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes pushed him to 13-under par and alone in front. But bogeys on the seventh and 10th holes dropped him back and he couldn’t get back to that level the rest of the round.
It took stellar par saves on the 71st and 72nd holes simply to remain tied with Snedeker and force the playoff. The pair matched birdies and pars on the first two extra holes, and Snedeker secured the win with a two-putt par when Donald could not save par one last time from a bunker in front of the closing lighthouse hole, No. 18.
Snedeker, who played at Vanderbilt, faced Northwestern’s Donald in college golf and has deep respect for the Match Play Championship winner’s ability. When it ended, Snedeker counseled Donald to keep his chin up.
“I just told him he’s going to be No. 1. Sorry it didn’t go the right way for him,” Snedeker said. “He’s that kind of player.”
Donald couldn’t match Snedeker when it counted most at Harbour Town Golf Links. Donald played the first 36 holes in 10 under to take the lead. He closed 70-70, giving Snedeker the opening.
Snedeker survived against one of the world’s best in a gritty three-hole playoff for his second career PGA Tour win and first since the 2007 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., during his rookie season.
“It’s a storybook ending really, to be playing Luke in a playoff, to even have a chance to win was exciting to me,” he said.
Donald lost after blasting out about 15 feet from the flag on the 18th and his chip for par from just off the green hit the back edge of the cup and bounced away.
Tommy Gainey finished a stroke back in third after a 68.
Donald was the steadiest player most of the week at Harbour Town. He caught Snedeker with a birdie on No. 13, then parred his way in for the playoff.
“It was going to be some big rewards if I won today,” Donald said. “But I’ll try and find the positives from this week and move on.”
At least Donald leaves No. 1 at something, making $615,000 to top the PGA Tour money list.
Snedeker earned $1,026,000. The biggest question facing Snedeker now is whether he’ll be back to defend his title.
The Heritage is without a title sponsor, something PGA Tour and event leaders say is essential for its return in 2012. There was talk all week of a Sunday surprise, an announcement of a backer to give assurances to pros. None was forthcoming, though, and tournament director Steve Wilmot said “the sponsorship search continues in earnest.”
Gainey, bidding to become the first South Carolina native to win the state’s PGA Tour event, missed a 15-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would’ve put him in the playoff.
“I would have loved to have won,” said Gainey, who gained fame as “Two Gloves” on Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series. “I think it’s the second-best tournament on tour” behind the Masters.
Defending champion Jim Furyk finished with his highest score, 76, in his past 33 rounds at Harbour Town to fall from contention.
“I just kind of got on a bad roll and it snowballed on me today,” he said.