1:00pm Tuesday 15th May 2012
By Alan Feldberg
LUKE Donald missed out on a return to the top of the world golf rankings by just two shots at the weekend.
The Wycombe superstar needed a top-four finish at The Players Championship at Sawgrass to reclaim the summit from Rory McIlroy, but ended up sixth despite a sparkling final round of 66.
Donald and McIlroy have been trading the top spot all year, and the door opened again for Donald again when the Northern Irishman missed the cut in America.
Donald said: “It's been a good old tennis match between Rory and I recently.
“I was very nervous when I had opportunities to get to No. 1, when it was really playing on my mind.
“But with going back and forward so many times it doesn't mean that much any more. Don't get me wrong, being No. 1 is nice but at this stage of my career I am still searching to win majors and that's much more important.”
There seemed little chance of Donald taking over the number one spot again when he started his final round at Sawgrass level par.
He was still level at the half-way stage, but then he set the course alight with an inward nine of 30, a new course record for that stretch which left him two off the lead and well in the hunt.
A five-footer on the tenth, two putts from 52 feet at the 11th and an eight-footer at the 12th set up the sprint finish, and three more birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th got him to six under par and in the hunt.
He said: “When I got that one in [on the 11th], I perked up a little. I thought I had a chance to maybe do something special on the back nine.
“There are some opportunities, because the greens are soft, to really go at some of these pins. "I was just trying to get some momentum on the greens more than anything.
“It was a nice effort to shoot 30 on the inward half and give myself a chance.”
But while Donald’s finish wasn’t enough to get him back to world number one, it closed the gap on McIlroy to just 0.13 ranking points a fortnight before the pair return to Britain for the PGA Championships at Wentworth, where Donald has some happy memories.
In 2011 he beat the then world number one Lee Westwood in a play-off to take the title and, at the same time, replace his countryman on top of the rankings for the first time.
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