WELL RORY MCILROY’S reign as world number one didn’t really last long. Luke Donald is now back at the summit of the rankings after his victory at the Transitions Championship on Monday.
As Donald entered the playoff alongside Sang-Moon Bae, Jim Furyk and Robert Garrigus, it looked like it may take quite a few extra holes to separate them and decide a winner. When Donald drove the ball into the right-hand rough on the first playoff hole, it certainly seemed very unlikely that he would walk off the green as the champion, but that is indeed what happened.
Donald’s second shot was a peach, landing just over the front bunker and rolling up to six feet away. His putter did the rest and all his competitors failed to make birdie. Job done, and the gauntlet firmly laid down to McIlroy and the rest.
One of the stories of the final roud was Ernie Els. The big South African is hell-bent on getting himself into the Masters in a few weeks time and needs to get into the top 50 in the rankings. He was in pole position on 14 under with two holes to play. Two pars would have won him the tournament, 13 under would have got him into the playoff. Instead, he finished bogey-bogey.
His finish on 18 was particularly heartbreaking. Left with about 5 feet for par, he dragged his putt badly to the left and along with it went significant world ranking points.
Should Els fail to make the Masters, it will be the first time to miss out since his debut in 1994. Although his record in recent years isn’t great, we’re talking about a guy who has two runner-up finishes and four other top 10s. It would be shame to lose one of the greats of the game from such a prestigious tournament.
(Ernie Els finished disappointingly at the weekend – Chris O’Meara/AP/Press Association Images)
At this stage in the season, it’s all about the build up to the Masters. It’s what all the players are thinking about. The aforementioned McIlroy and Donald will not play competitively again until they take the trip down Magnolia Lane on April 5th.
However, that is not to say there isn’t some golf of note in the meantime.
At the moment, for example, the Tavistock Cup is underway. It’s one of these unique exhibition tournaments that’s played out in Florida and features some of the top players in the world representing their home golf clubs.
If anyone had any doubts about Tiger Woods’ fitness after his recent withdrawal from the WGC Cadillac Championship, well, he’s back out on the course representing Albany Golf Club alongside Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and the South African trio of Tim Clark, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman.
Woods and Rose were on fire in round one shooting a 9 under par 63 under par in the fourball betterball format. It was quite something to watch.
The Tavistock Cup really is interesting to watch. Even though it’s competitive, it’s more like the competition you experience when you’ve a fiver on the line with your mates. There’s an element of fun involved and it’s nice to see something different from the intense competition we see week-in week-out.
That side of things does return on Thursday, however, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It’s one of the bigger tournaments on the schedule and has produced some really dramatic final days in recent years. Think Tiger Woods in 2008 and 2009. Ernie Els was a winner there in 2010 and indeed in 1998, so maybe he will get the job done and confirm his place in the Masters.
Some will be dubious about Woods’ recent form and particularly his fitness in light of what happened at Doral, but his record at Bay Hill is second to none and his swing seems to be consistently improving. With that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a good week this week.