Donald denied World No. 1 golf spot with playoff

Posted at 04/25/11 3:50 PM

HILTON HEAD, South Carolina – England's Luke Donald missed a chance to claim golf's World No. 1 ranking, losing a tension-packed Heritage playoff to American Brandt Snedeker on Sunday's third extra hole.

Donald birdied the 18th and parred the 17th in the playoff only to see Snedeker match him each time. Snedeker parred at 18 on the third playoff hole but Donald's par bid from the edge of the green lipped out to end the drama.

"I thought it was going to be my day," Donald said. "It wasn't."

Donald, who began the week ranked third, passed idle top man Martin Kaymer of Germany and with a victory would have been number one for the first time.

Instead, the top spot goes again to England's Lee Westwood, who won the Indonesian Masters to pass Kaymer and stay in front of Donald, who would have joined Westwood and Nick Faldo as the only Englishmen to claim World No. 1 with a victory.

"I will keep plugging away," Donald said. "Nobody likes to finish second. Second is not a lot of fun., But I will find something out of it."

Snedeker, whose only prior US PGA crown came in 2007 at Charlotte, fired the best round of the day, a seven-under 64, to set up his playoff heroics.

"I had no expectations going out there," said Snedeker, who was six strokes off the pace when the final round began. "I wanted to have a scrappy round of golf and get ready for next week.

"I had a great round out there. I made a lot of putts. Maybe that should tell me something."

Snedeker waited two hours for Donald in the last group to match him.

"They were definitely the longest two hours I've had in a while," Snedeker said. "You are completely helpless. There's nothing you can do."

Donald parred the final five holes in his fourth round, the last of them rescued from the sand of a greenside bunker at the 18th hole, to force the playoff.

Replaying the 18th on the first playoff hole, Donald sank a 12-foot birdie putt only to have Snedeker top him from 10 feet to extend the excitement.

Donald found a front bunker on the second playoff hole, the par-3 17th, while Snedeker put himself atop a slope above the pin.

Donald blasted out of the sand six feet beyond the cup while Snedeker went left and five feet past the hole. Each man sank his pressure putt for pars that sent them both back to 18 for the third and final time on the day.

A 9-iron approach left Donald in a bunker in front of the green and he blasted out to the far edge of the putting area while Snedeker dropped his approach in the middle of the green and two putted for par.

Donald rolled the ball hard into the cup but it popped out and left him agonizingly short in his quest for the top ranking. Snedeker enjoyed his first victory since his rookie season.

"The first one was special," Snedeker said. "You start to question if it's ever going to happen again. Getting it today was awesome."

Donald, who shared second in 2009 and third last year at the Heritage, has only one US PGA victory to show for seven final rounds that began with him in the lead, the only triumphy coming at the 2006 Honda Classic.

That doesn't count Donald's 54-hole victory in 2002 when a final round was washed out by rain.

Seeking financial support in order to return next year, the Heritage produced a dramatic farewell if this was its final bow.

Donald, who led by a stroke when the day began, matched clubhouse leader Snedeker atop the leaderboard at 12-under par by dropping an 18-foot birdie putt at the 13th, then sank a clutch six-footer for par at the 14th.

After a long two-putt for par at 15 following a wait while playing partner Jim Furyk struggled around the green, Donald missed left on an eight-foot birdie putt at the 16th to remain deadlocked with Snedeker.

Donald, with only one bogey beyond the 10th hole this week, blasted over the green on the par-3 17th but chipped back to five feet and sank the par putt to retain a share of the lead.

Donald found a greenside bunker with his 8-iron approach at the 18th and, after another long wait due to a lost ball by Furyk, Donald blasted 24 yards out of the sand and put the ball three feet from the cup on his way to the playoff.

Tommy Gainey missed a 15-foot birdie putt at 18, settling for a 68 to finish third on 273, one stroke ahead of fellow Americans Ricky Barnes and Tim Herron.

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