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Rory's reign is over - for now

GOLF: Rory McIlroy is no longer world number one as Luke Donald last night regained top spot in the world rankings with a third-placed finish in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

The 34-year-old needed a top-seven finish at Avondale to regain pole position from McIlroy -- and he got it, finishing third.

For Donald, a final round 67 followed earlier efforts of 73, 65 and 66 to see him finish two shots off the pace. Birdies on the third, ninth, 11th, 13th and 18th holes ensured the Englishman finished on his own at 17 under par.

It means the top spot in world golf has changed hands nine times in the last 18 months, with Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer also holding the position.

McIlroy, who had moved to World No 1 for the first time in his career last month, begins his quest to regain top spot later this week, when he competes in the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina.

The winner of the tournament in Louisiana was American Jason Dufner, who edged out Ernie Els on the second hole of a sudden-death play-off to land his first PGA title at the 164th attempt.

The pair could not be separated on 19 under after the final round.

Els was happy to savour the positives after ending a bitter-sweet week with a play-off defeat in Louisiana.

In pursuit of his first PGA Tour title in two years, Els lost to Dufner on the second extra hole at the TPC Louisiana after narrowly missing a six-foot birdie putt for victory on the previous hole.

However, the smooth-swinging South African was delighted to challenge for the title, having started the final round two shots off the pace before closing with a flawless five-under-par 67.

"I came close, so it's disappointing but good," three-times major winner Els told reporters after being trumped by Dufner's two-putt birdie at the par-five 18th, the second extra hole.

"I did play well. I made some putts. I missed the one in the playoff but made a lot of putts on the back nine to keep myself in it. It was a nice little charge I made and nice to catch the leader.

"You know, to play 72 holes, four days of golf and have a putt to win, that's a negative and a positive. It's just one of those things. I just came up short."

Bidding for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Els briefly vaulted into a two-shot lead after eagling the par-five seventh to get to 18-under.

"I was trying to get to the leader and making birdies and eagles helps," Els smiled. "But we were trying to get to 20-under at the start of the day. To catch the leader by the seventh hole, you've still got a lot of golf to play."

Els, an 18-times champion on the PGA Tour, had a golden opportunity to seal victory on the first playoff hole, also the 18th, but pushed his putt past the right edge of the cup.

Dufner, moments earlier, had narrowly missed his attempt there from seven feet.

"I didn't hit a great putt," Els reflected. "I tried to jam it in there and kind of pushed it a little bit.

"It's a disappointment especially when you have a putt to win the tournament.

"I can work on it but at least I'm doing good things."

Els, a former world number one, paid tribute to the laid-back and almost unemotional Dufner who finally won his first PGA Tour title on his 164th start.

"I don't know how long he can keep it up, that wall, but he's doing a good job so far," the South African grinned.


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