7/1/2012 10:11:37 AM
Donaldson was the only player to put together four rounds in the 60s this week
at Royal Portrush, and finished at 18-under par 270. He had two bogeys on his
back nine, but also rolled in five birdies -- including a long one at the last
-- to hold off his challengers.
"It feels a bit surreal to be honest," Donaldson said during a television
interview. "I don't think it will sink in until later."
Anthony Wall (69), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (66) and Fabrizio Zanotti (66) shared
second place at minus-14.
The victory was a long time coming for Donaldson, who made 253 starts on tour
before getting a win. He was a three-time Challenge Tour titlist and twice
finished as a European Tour runner-up.
But he played remarkably steady and resilient golf all week. Donaldson, who
changed caddies just before the start of the event, surrounded his bogeys with
plenty of birdies and a few eagles, and didn't stumble too badly at any point.
"I knew what I was doing was right, it just wasn't coming together at the same
time," Donaldson said.
When the Welshman began his round at minus-12, several players had gotten
close to, or surpassed that score. Then Wall, Donaldson's playing partner,
birdied the first to pull even.
But at the next hole, Wall stumbled to a triple bogey while Donaldson began a
run of three consecutive birdies. That stretch put him at minus-15, and he
stayed there around the turn.
A bogey at 11 threatened his chances, but he rebounded by making three birdies
in the next four holes. He ended the run by rolling in a 12-footer at the
par-4 15th to reach minus-17.
After after a bogey at 16, Donaldson was still several strokes clear of the
Wall had managed to recover from his triple, thanks to three birdies late on
his front nine. But that one hole essentially derailed his chances of winning.
By the time he birdied 14 and 16, he was only within two shots of first.
Still, Donaldson hadn't wrapped up the victory just yet. He said he didn't
look at the leaderboard all day, but consulted his caddied before teeing off
at the 17th to see where he stood.
Already in good position, Donaldson closed strong to put an exclamation mark
on his win. At the par-5 17th, he placed his second shot on the green and had
a good eagle chance after the ball took a beneficial roll toward the cup. He
barely missed the eagle putt, but tapped in for birdie.
Then, at the last, Donaldson's lengthy birdie putt ran true, and he timed a
fist pump to perfection as the ball fell in the cup.
Mikael Lundberg shot a 65 Sunday to climb into fifth place, which he shared
with Mark Foster at minus-13.
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington (70) finished at minus-12 and was
the highest-placed Irishman, in seventh. He was tied with David Drysdale (66)
and Craig Lee (68).
Defending champion Simon Dyson (67) finished tied for 10th at minus-11. He was
joined in that group by world No. 2 Rory McIlroy (67), Ross Fisher (66),
Francesco Molinari (67), Mikko Ilonen (67) and Paul Waring (70).
NOTES: Donaldson became the third Welshman to win the Irish Open, after Ian
Woosnam (1988-89) and Stephen Dodd (2005)...Thongchai Jaidee (minus-9) and
Richard Sterne (minus-3) were winners of a mini European Tour money list, and
qualified for the British Open...Donaldson pocketed 333,330 Euros for the
win...Next week, the European Tour heads to Paris for the Open de France,
which Thomas Levet won last year.