Donald tops Kaymer in Match Play final
MARANA, Ariz. — He majored in art at Northwestern and has his own name on a California wine. The image of Luke Donald, enhanced by his proper English accent, was that of a man who played golf less for the competition than for the exercise and enjoyment.
“I’ve been depicted as someone happy contending, picking up checks, but doesn’t really care about winning,’’ said Donald after he picked up $1.4 million, the biggest payday of his career, for winning the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship yesterday. “And that’s about as far away from the truth as it can be.’’
In a final delayed by a hailstorm and played on fairways that had been covered by an overnight snow, Donald, 33, was as far away from finals opponent Martin Kaymer as he needed to be.
Donald not only won 3 and 2 against Kaymer, the “Germanator,’’ at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, in the winter wonderland foothills north of Tucson, he climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings.
Kaymer became No. 1 on Saturday when he won his semifinal. Since Englishman Lee Westwood is at No. 2 and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is No. 4, it is the first time since 1992 that no American player is in the top four.
Tiger Woods dropped to fifth and Phil Mickelson to sixth. Both were eliminated early in the championship.
Donald’s play this week was unprecedented in Accenture history. He became the first never to trail in any of his six matches. Yesterday he went 3-up on Kaymer, 26, in the first five holes. Donald let the lead get away by the ninth but regained it with a birdie on 11.
Not once in those six matches did Donald get to the 18th hole. In the 89 holes he played, he recorded 31 birdies.
“It feels amazing,’’ said Donald, who has homes in Illinois and Florida and mainly plays the PGA Tour. “I had a bit of a monkey on my back. I hadn’t won in the U.S. in five years.” Not since the Honda in March 2006.
Donald said he doesn’t consider himself a modern player, meaning peers outdrive him by 30-40 yards and he must compensate with his short game.
“I think he’s probably the best in the world around the greens,’’ Kaymer said.
And the whites, after the hail smashed down. “It was testing,’’ Donald said of the weather. “It was bizarre.’’
With the site contract at an end, the Accenture might not return to a course at 2,700-feet elevation. The tournament moved here from La Costa, north of San Diego, because of rain. Where it might go now is a question. There’s no question, however, where Donald wants to go.
“I feel my work ethic is as good as any player out here,’’ Donald said. “I work very hard trying to keep getting better. Winning is what it’s all about.’’
It certainly was in the Accenture.