By Michael Williams
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Luke Donald played like a man who would be king, winning the 2012 Transitions Championship with a magnificent birdie on the first playoff hole over Sang-Moon Bae, Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus. Coming from three strokes off the lead to record his fifth PGA Tour win, Donald regained the world No. 1 ranking, displacing the idle Rory McIlroy. The victory was also Donald's first playoff win.
"I was a lot more nervous the first time," Donald said of getting to No. 1. "That certainly wasn't my focus. I was just focused on trying to win the tournament, and it worked out."
Donald fired a 5-under par 66 in regulation to finish in atop the crowded leaderboard at 13- under. On the first playoff hole, Donald hit a laser-like 7-iron to five feet. Furyk and Bae missed long putts for birdie, and Garrigus narrowly missed a 7 footer that would have sent the competition to second playoff hole.
A slew of golfers finished outside the playoff, including Ernie Els, Scott Piercy, Jeff Overton and Ken Duke. Donald recorded his 16th top 10 finish in his last 22 events.
Missing the playoff was a biter pill for Els, who had led the tournament much more of the afternoon and was at 14-under with just two holes left to play. But he bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes to finish at 12-under, one shot behind the leaders. Els also missed a chance to win his first PGA Tour event in over three years and an invitation to the Masters. After he tournament, a visibly shaken Els barely managed to keep his composure, snapping at Tour officials and giving a terse post-round interview with television reporters as he came of the course. Els will have one more shot at Augusta at next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he would qualify with a win.
Overton, who carded a 7-under par 64 in the final round had a chance to join the playoff with a birdie on No. 18, but his curling attempt just missed.
Bae, whose syrupy swing reminded onlookers of Els' legendary tempo, shot a 3-under par 68 to record a career-best second-place finish in his rookie campaign on the Tour. Scott Piercy wowed the galleries with a bogey-free 9-under 62, the lowest final-round score in the history of the Transitions Championship, bettering Joe Durant's 63 in 2004. Piercy's amazing round included only nine putts on the opening nine holes.
Thirteen players finished 10-under or better at the Transitions Championship, the most players to finish double digits under par in the history of the event. The previous record was 10 set in 2011. Third round co-leader Retief Goosen was not among them. Goosen, who has been struggling with lower back pain that will require plasma injections this week, recorded a 4-over 75 to finish ted for 20th place. Also posting a disappointing 20th-place finish was Padraig Harrington, who posted a course record 61 in the opening round.
Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.
You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv