Valspar Championship flashback
Luke Donald has five PGA Tour wins to his name, but it is seven years since the former world No 1 last tasted success in the United States. That victory came in the Transitions Championship in 2012 but he has a chance to end his barren run by winning the same tournament – now named the Valspar Championship – on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort on Sunday evening.
Englishman, who won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth a couple of months after his 2012 triumph in Florida, is three shots behind leader Paul Casey going into the final round. Donald was also three behind after 54 holes in 2012 when he finished strongly with a round of 66 to snatch the spoils following a four-man play-off and he also returned to the top of the world rankings thanks to the win.
Donald proudly displays the Transitions Championship trophy
He made a solid start in the opening round seven years ago, but the Thursday was all about Padraig Harrington as he carded a 10-under 61, featuring 10 birdies, to build a three-shot lead.
The Irishman failed to break 70 for the remainder of the tournament, though, as he added scores of 73, 72 and 71 to finish in a tie for 20th place.
Harrington’s 73 in the second round saw him forfeit the lead to American Jason Dufner, whose second successive 66 took him to 10 under and two clear of the field at the halfway stage.
William McGirt shared second place with Harrington on eight under, with Donald one shot further back in a large group on seven under after a 68.
The third round saw Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk, two former US Open champions and past winners at Innisbrook, come to the fore as they shared the 54-hole lead on 11-under 202.
Goosen had three straight birdies on the back nine in a six-under 65, while Furyk hit a 66 with a bogey at the 18th costing him the outright lead.
South Korean Sang-moon Bae (68) and Dufner (71) were one shot behind, but just 28 players were separated by five shots heading into the final round.
One of those players was Donald, sitting three off the pace following his worst round of the week, a one-under 70.
Donald had the added incentive of knowing he would return to world No 1, and end Rory McIlroy’s two-week stint at the top, with a victory, but a tough Sunday was in prospect with so many players in contention.
He moved up the leaderboard in the final round with five birdies over the first 11 holes thanks to some excellent iron play and then consolidated with seven successive pars for a five-under 66 which took him to 13-under 271.
That target had already been set in the clubhouse by American Robert Garrigus, who has been in the news this week, after he birdied the last two holes for a 64.
Donald closed with a five-under 66 to claim his place in the play-off
Garrigus and Donald were then joined on 13 under by Bae (68) and Furyk (69), while Ernie Els missed out after a disappointing finish, which saw him miss a short birdie putt on the 16th, when he led on 14 under, and then close with back-to-back bogeys.
So the leading quartet went into a play-off, and it was Donald who claimed the victory in stunning fashion on the first extra hole (the 18th) with a seven-iron out of a heavy lie in the rough to six feet before he holed the clutch putt for a birdie as his ball curled in the left side of the cup.
Valspar Championship flashback