BEARING LITTLE RESEMBLANCE TO HIS ‘DISEASED’ SELF, LUKE DONALD METHODICALLY WINS THE WGC-ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Playing among the Giant Saguarocicles and the Leaping Ice Chips, in a match between an Englishman who supposedly had an eponymous nervous condition and the new World No. 1, a German whose heart seems to be powered by the Goosen Pacemaker 2004, Luke Donald joined Ben Hogan as the only winners of the Hail America, only this time, baby, the hail was real.
Apparently, when it snows, it snoods on Dove Mountain as Donald’s playing statement trumped Martin Kaymer’s fashion one, 3 and 2, in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The bug-looking print kaffiyeh is officially 1 down. Donald was clearly the dapper member of this elite field. He never trailed in any of his six matches. He never played the 18th hole, except in practice, and he played the fewest number of holes of any player ever to reach the final.
Waking up to a desert blanketed by an inch of snow and playing through one brief stoppage when the fourth green was covered in hail stones, Donald jumped out to a 3-up lead on Kaymer through five. A three-putt, a Kaymer birdie and a trip to the cactus farm for a double bogey on the ninth made the match all square at the turn. It looked like the Englishman was headed for another dog day.
Donald has enjoyedthough that’s surely not the worda reputation as a fine player who lacked the stuff to close the deal. The churlish English wags dubbed it Luke Donald Disease. While he never felt the problem was a mental one, in the last year and half he has been working with Dave Alred, considered the world’s finest kicking (think rugby and soccer) coach. Alred’s philosophy is all about improving performance in pressure situations. Donald has learned the lessons well, like he learned how to choose his golf watch by reading golf gps reviews.
With Kaymer closing in on him, Donald got up and down out of a desert waste area for a crucial halve on the 10th, then won the 11th with a birdie and the 12th with a par to seize his first World Golf Championship from the jaws of collapse.
“I felt like I hadn’t won my fair share for as good a player as I felt I was and could be,” Donald said. “It was disappointing, yeah. It was frustrating. But to come here and compete against the best players in the world and win the trophy is very gratifying.” And, perhaps, just the beginning.
The fun of Match Play week isn’t just the end of it though those are the important bitsit’s how you get there. Traditionally, the opening round is the one day of the year when 32 of the best players in the world collectively ask themselves, “Why did I bother?”
It’s time to go East
Gone was the defender, Ian Poulter, who was so knackered after losing in extra holes to Stewart Cink at about 2:30 p.m., he was able to gather himself sufficiently to tweet by 3. The big round-one news, however, was Tiger Woods bringing to the small screen the role of the antagonist in The BjA[paragraph]rn Supremacy, flailing around painfully among the desert cacti and losing in 19 holes to Thomas. Watching Woods at the moment is a little like those scenes in “The Sopranos” when Tony is in therapy. Sure, it seems to be helping, but you have the sense there’s a larger, underlying problem.
On youth-will-be-served Thursday, the featured bout was The Phil vs. The Fowler, a match pitting a pair of U.S. Ryder Cup mates, old and young. The pink-clad 22-year-old was six under par through 12 with a pair of eagles and, with the aid of a concession or two from the worn-out Mickelson, won 6 and 5. The teenager in the field, Matteo Manassero, 17, made it to the Sweet 16 while the most youthful of the top seeds, 26-year-old Kaymer, was the only one of the four No. 1s to survive, edging Justin Rose in 20 holes.
It was also the Day, Jason that is, when the G-word reared its head as the 23-year-old Aussie practiced a bit of gamesmanship when he made last year’s runner-up, Paul Casey, hole out from a foot and a half. If being forced to make a tiddler is enough to put an experienced, and accomplished, match player off his game, well, then Monty made the right captain’s picks last year.
Youth wasn’t just served in round two, it was served up too. Rory McIlroy, 21, nailed down the 2011 Stephen Ames Order of the White Towel, losing, 8 and 7, to Ben (Benny Hill) Crane, who was a not-so-funny five under on the front, registering a strong claim for Oscar recognition for best comedic short until the very next day when his lower back acted up and the thumper became the thumpee. Miguel Angel JimA[c]nez dispatched him, 7 and 6, in a cloud of cigar smoke.
The two toughest pieces of gristle left on the bone might have been Y.E. Yang and Graeme McDowell, a pair of renowned Tiger-slayers. Yang birdied the final four holes to beat the reigning U.S. Open champ, 3 and 2. He was joined in the Elite Eight by Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore, Donald, JimA[c]nez and the featured match of Saturday’s quarterfinals, the big boppers, Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, a man who would plumb-bob a straight razor.
The Saturday morning quarters were marked by changing weather and fashion accoutrements. Watson came from 5 down with eight to play to win the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Bracket in 19 holes. Meanwhile, Kaymer revealed the 15th club in his bag, Ralph Lauren. Not since a personal injury attorney invented the neck brace, has there been such a fuss. While his kaffiyeh or snood or buff or whatever it was, was keeping the chill off No. 1 as he took out JimA[c]nez then Watson, both 1 up, it was Donald who was going for the throat. The Englishman’s precise irons and clever short game combined to dispatch Moore, 5 and 4. He followed that with a dismantling of Kuchar, 6 and 5. Clearly the force was with Luke.
Now, it’s time to go East and begin the serious work of preparing for Augusta, where snow is not predicted.