Donald makes magic, takes titles in Disney duel

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Luke Donald shakes hands with another Donald after winning the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
October 23, 2011
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luke Donald was at a loss for words. No matter, he let his golf game do the talking on Sunday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

On a day when nothing less than victory would satisfy the Englishman, Donald went out and fired a phenomenal 64 that included six straight birdies on the back nine to win for the second time this season and capture the PGA TOUR money title, as well.

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Donald came from five strokes off the pace to win by two, and the Brit did it while playing Sunday, as he had the first three rounds, with the man he was trying to unseat at the top of the money list, Webb Simpson. So Donald was reminded of the task at hand on every tee and every green, and the veteran responded with one of the most stirring performances of his career.

"Obviously I came here and I told you guys on Wednesday that the goal was to win," Donald said. "Nothing was really going to be good enough other than that. I think this is probably one of the most satisfying wins of my career just because of that. It was kind of do or die."

And while the ballots won't go out until this week, the emphatic victory may have added definition to the race for PGA TOUR Player of the Year honors. Donald now has joined a group of seven players with two wins this season, with perhaps only one other, Keegan Bradley's victory at the PGA, as dramatic as Sunday's performance at Disney. He's got 14 top-10s in 19 starts and that consistency was rewarded with a third-place finish in the FedExCup.

"I think I've answered everyone's questions," the world No. 1 said. "Obviously coming into this week I felt like Webb was probably favorite, you know, based on he was ahead of me on the money list and he was ahead of me in wins this year. Obviously, I've drawn level on wins and I've gotten ahead on money. Feel like I've answered all the questions thrown at me."

At least one of his peers, Joe Ogilvie, seemed to agree. About the time Donald was struggling to lift that heavy bronze trophy with Mickey Mouse tending the pin and Goofy caddying, Ogilvie tweeted: "With a win today and in this fashion, @LukeDonald may go from ? for player of the year to unanimous vote getter for POY...WOW what a back 9"

Donald isn't done, either. Of course, first there's the not-so-little-matter of the impending birth of his second daughter in the next two weeks -- his wife Diane jokingly tweeted that the couple should name her Minnie. Then he'll play in Sun City, Dubai and Australia in successive weeks with the trip to the Middle East an important one where, not unlike his visit to Disney, another money title is on the line.

Interview: Luke Donald

Luke Donald talks after picking up his second win of the season and the PGA TOUR money title.

Donald currently leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai by more than 1.3 million Euros. No one has ever won the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, and the 33-year-old acknowledged that he might add a European Tour event should anyone close the gap -- just like he did in deciding to play at Disney when Simpson overtook him in the penultimate tournament.

Sunday was just another clutch performance in a career year for Donald. The only box the Northwestern grad hasn't ticked is to win a major, but he did manage to mow down Lee Westwood in a playoff at Wentworth and in the process replace him as No. 1 in the world.

"In a way, there was a little bit more on the line this week," Donald acknowledged. "Obviously I felt like if I hadn't won Wentworth, I felt I was playing well enough that I would have got to No. 1 in the world at some point. ...

"But I think having this amount on the line this week and coming up and shooting 30 on the back nine on Sunday, finding the shots when I needed to, you know, really will mean a lot to me and to all the people that I work with."

Sunday's victory was Donald's first in stroke play on the PGA TOUR in more than five years but it had a mano-a-mano feel worthy of his win over Martin Kaymer earlier this year at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. He and Simpson were tied through 12 holes even as Donald was in the midst of pouring in those birdie putts. The American just couldn't keep pace, and neither could anyone else in the field.

"We both kind of had our moments playing great golf this week," said Simpson, who started the final round one shot ahead in their personal duel. "He did his at the end when it counts. We had a blast out there. Kind of a tiring week playing together every day and thinking about all that's going on. I'm glad it's over. He played great."

Donald said he's "very, very excited" about his golf right now, even as he's winding down a long campaign. He'll have five weeks to savor the victory though, and he knows Sunday won't be the last time someone brings bring up the fairytale nature of a rare win well-accomplished when everything was on the line.

"It's a little bit ironic, I suppose, that Donald Duck was handing me the trophy (and) every morning I was riding into Disneyland (and) I think the banner says: Where dreams come true or, Where dreams are made," Donald said with a smile.

"... I suppose if I ever have to bring the children back here, at least it'll have some good memories for me -- even if I'm having to wait in all those lines."

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