ENGLISHMAN Luke Donald regained the number one ranking from Rory McIlroy when he won the Transitions Championship at Palm Harbor, Florida on Sunday.
Donald clinched the tournament after he won a sudden-death playoff with South Korean Bae Sang-moon and the American pair of Robert Garrigus and Jim Furyk.
“Obviously it feels great. My focus this week was to try and win. I wasn’t really thinking about the world rankings,” Donald said.
The four finished the event locked at 13-under-par, just one stroke clear of another group of four players, on a heavily congested leaderboard.
Donald, who had closed with a bogey-free round of five-under 66, won on the first playoff hole when he drained a birdie putt from less than seven feet after a brilliant approach shot from around 157 yards out of the rough.
Garrigus, who finished with a 64, two hours before the final group, narrowly missed a birdie putt from seven feet. Bae, who closed with a 68, and Furyk (6), both missed longer, downhill putts.
“I had a great day,” said Garrigus.
“If you would have told me I would have been in a playoff this morning when I woke up, I would have pretty much told you you were crazy.”
The win provided the 34-year-old Donald with his fifth career victory on the PGA Tour and elevated him back to the top of the world rankings.
He first became number one last year when he beat compatriot Lee Westwood in a playoff and stayed there for 40 weeks until he was passed by McIlroy two weeks ago when the Irishman won the Honda Classic.
The pair are not due to play again until next month’s Masters, the first major of 2012, starting at Augusta National on April 5.
“There might be a little bit more hype around me now,” Donald said. “But ... I’ve been through that. I still think Rory and obviously Tiger (Woods) will be getting a lot of the attention.”
McIlroy did not play the Transitions but was among the first to congratulate Donald, tweeting his Ryder Cup team mate within minutes of his victory.
“Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats @LukeDonald! Impressive performance!” McIlroy wrote.
South African Ernie Els, needing to win to be assured of a place in next month’s Masters at Augusta, led for most of the final day before making bogey on each of the last two holes to miss out on the playoff by a shot.
“It’s going to be tough. I’m pretty hot now, and it’s difficult to talk with a straight head here,” Els said.
After his opening career-best 61, a course record, Pádraig Harrington finished with a level-par round of 71 to tie for 20th position.