Beaufort News

Tartan jacket, No. 1 spot elude Donald in Heritage playoff

John McLaren watched the white carts drive away one by one, disappearing behind the throng gathered behind the grandstand at No. 18.

McLaren, Luke Donald's caddie and no doubt confused as to why he was left without a ride after 75 holes of golf, threw his man's blue and white bag on his shoulder and began the long hike to the clubhouse at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Team Donald was frustrated in the end, but not angry with how the week had gone, he said.

The walk gave him time to reflect on the three-hole playoff with Brandt Snedeker, who won when Donald's chip from just off the green on the 18th caught the right edge and lipped out. Both on the 72nd hole and the second playoff hole, Donald was between clubs on his approach. Both times, his approach fell short into the front bunker on No. 18.

The second time, his ball plugged -- "Five-sevenths (buried)," McLaren said -- and left Donald little options other than to blast where he did, to the fringe. From there, Donald opted to chip. And why not? The Englishman currently owns what many say is the world's best short game.

The decision was Donald's, McLaren said. And after Snedeker won the Heritage, denying Donald a chance at No. 1 in the world, the only objections from Donald's camp were with a camera snapping prematurely all four rounds on No. 18 tee.

"His short game's that good, just let him get on with it and hope he can do it," McLaren said of Donald's final chip. "We have no complaints. We gave it everything we had."

For a second consecutive day, Donald could not break 70 with the lead, though he did extend his tour-leading streak of under-par rounds to 13. His best chance to win the tournament in his closing holes came at No. 16, where he hit his approach within 8 feet but could not convert the birdie.

Donald found a bunker on three of his final four holes, including the three playoff holes. He failed to get up and down only on the last, when the plugged lie doomed his chances at par.

Friend and countryman Lee Westwood climbed to No. 1 after winning the Indonesian Masters.

"To be No. 1 would be great, but it's not everything," said Donald, who finished in the top three at the Heritage for a third consecutive year. "It certainly would be a tick in the box and it would be something great to talk to the grandkids in 30 years time and say that you were the best in the world, but I still have a lot of chances to do that."

But this was a good opportunity. When asked earlier in the week if he felt like the best player in the world, Donald smiled and said, "Not yet."

He's close. And Donald moved to No. 1 on the PGA Tour money list with his runner-up finish. But an up-and-down front nine, followed by seeing Snedeker's low number on the leaderboard, proved too much to overcome.

Like last year, when Donald needed a run on the back nine, the course won out. He gave back a shot on No. 10 to fall from the lead. His birdie on the par-4 13th was his only birdie on the back nine until he played No. 18 a second time.

"It wasn't easy," Donald said.