| 17.1°C Dublin

Donald's dip in form puts Rory back on top of world


Luke Donald.

Luke Donald.

Luke Donald.

RORY McILROY is back on top of the world after Luke Donald failed to make it into the top eight in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links yesterday.

Under the vagaries of the complicated ranking points system, McIlroy returns to the pinnacle of professional golf after a week spent relaxing with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in her native Denmark.

Of course, the real key to McIlroy's elevation is his stunningly consistent form over the past eight months.

Since his recovery from a wrist injury incurred at last August's PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, the 22-year-old Ulsterman has registered 11 top-five finishes in 13 world-ranking events.

Throw in his $2m victory in last October's unsanctioned Shanghai Masters and you have three wins by McIlroy in that impressive period, including last month's Honda Classic, a success that established him as Irish golf's first world No 1.

McIlroy spent two weeks at the top of the charts before Donald wrested back the honour with a sudden-death win at the Transitions Championship, which helped convince many of the 34-year-old's fellow countrymen that he may be able to break his duck at the Majors in the recent US Masters.

However, Donald's form deserted him at Augusta National. A 68 last Sunday was his only sub-par round at the Masters as he tied 32nd on three-over, 13 strokes outside a play-off won in sensational fashion by Bubba Watson.

Neither was there much evidence in Harbour Town of the world-beating form which last year helped establish Donald as the first man in history to top the official money list in America and Europe in the same season.

After opening with a four-over 75 last Thursday, Donald posted a 69 on Friday and was tied 52nd entering the final round after Saturday's even-par 71.

Any hopes Donald harboured of going low enough to make the top eight on the final leaderboard were scotched by a dreadful double-bogey six at the opening hole, where he took four to get down from the front greenside bunker.

Birdies at five and six brought Donald back onto an even keel but he played the remaining 12 holes in level par, finishing the tournament just inside the top 40 on two-over. Carl Pettersson clinched a comfortable five-shot victory over Zach Johnson with a two under par round of 69 last night.

Donald, however, was unfazed by the prospect of dropping off the top. "Now that I've been No 1 for a few weeks, it's not something I think about too much," he said with a shrug.

His recent four-week stint as the world's leading golfer brought Donald's total in the hot seat to 44.


McIlroy now celebrates his third week in all at No 1, so he draws level with Bernhard Langer in the all-time charts, two ahead of Tom Lehman, who spent just one week on the top rung in April 1997.

As Donald doesn't tee it up on the PGA Tour until Thursday week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, McIlroy could enjoy at least another fortnight at the pinnacle of his sport.

After his disappointing demise over the weekend at the US Masters, McIlroy will hope for a return to top form in his next outing, the Wells Fargo Championship (May 3-6) at Quail Hollow, scene of his sensational first victory on US soil in 2010.

McIlroy currently lies fourth in the US money list and leads Louis Oosthuizen in Europe's Race to Dubai.

Oosthuizen (29) showed his true class in Kuala Lumpur yesterday as he wrapped up his fifth victory on the European Tour at the storm-tossed Maybank Malaysian Open just seven days after his sudden-death defeat against Watson at the Masters.

The South African rebounded brilliantly from his Augusta let-down and a 30-hour trip across 12 time zones to Malaysia to post four sub-70 rounds and win by three strokes.

"I thought I was going to be a lot more tired," said the 2010 Open champ after his closing 68.

His third bogey of the tournament at six set him back, but he responded superbly.

He kept his cool to sink testing putts for birdie on seven and 13 and then made the most of a slice of luck in narrowly avoiding the water on 16 to pick up another shot there and open up a comfortable cushion.

Oosthuizen played 26 holes yesterday. Though he led runner-up Stephen Gallacher by one entering the final 18 holes, the Scot would have been level had he signed for his correct third-round score, a 68, and not the 69 he officially recorded.

Gallacher (37) discovered his error on the first tee in the afternoon but kept his composure well to shoot a closing 70.

Irish Independent