Luke Donald saw his world No 1 dream cruelly snatched away on the third hole of sudden death at The Heritage last night. But English golf could still go to bed content in the knowledge that one of theirs would be heading the rankings when they are published this morning. Lee Westwood, and his many admirers, will feel he is back where he belongs.
Indeed, he has spent only eight weeks at No 2 before reclaiming the game's most coveted berth off Martin Kaymer. Westwood did so courtesy of a three-shot victory in the Indonesian Masters, his first victory of the year. As it happened to be his 38th birthday, Westwood was in celebration mood anyway. But when Donald failed to prevail in South Carolina, there was even more reason to spill the bubbly.
Donald's defeat to Brandt Snedeker on his beloved Harbour Town course was difficult for the 33-year-old to take. He led for so long and showed great courage; first to get up and down on the final hole of regulation to keep his challenge alive; then to birdie the 18th from 12 feet on the first hole of the shootout; then to enact another great sand escape on the next, the 17th. It was a display fully deserving of him becoming the fourth Briton to assume golf's highest mantle. But in Snedeker, Donald came up against a man inspired.
The American's 64 for a 12-under total was impressive enough – but the manner in which he followed Donald into the hole from 10 feet on the first hole of sudden death was remarkable. When Donald bogeyed the 18th on his third visit – his putt for par off the green desperately staying above ground after rattling the lip of the cup – Snedeker's first title in four years was confirmed.
With respect to Westwood's achievement, English golf breathed a heavy sigh of "what might have been". A Donald victory would have given the country the top-two places on the rankings for the first time since their inception 25 years ago. Instead England must be content with Nos 1 and 3. Westwood made sure of it with his comfortable success over Thongchai Jaidee and was characteristically laidback about the permutations.
"It was about coming here this week and trying to win and I've done that," said Westwood, whose 69 at Royal Jakarta gave him a 19-under total. "I've ticked every box this week so we will have to wait and see what happens."
Westwood, who spent 17 weeks at No 1 until being usurped by the German Kaymer in February, was understandably relieved. "It was quite some day," he said. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy with a five-shot lead. Park [Hyun-bin] played well on the front nine and Thongchai was making many birdies. But I was experienced enough to know that patience was the key. When you are coming down those last few holes, the only person who knows what to do better is yourself."
The New Top 10
1 L Westwood (Eng) 7.65pts
2 M Kaymer (Ger) 7.52
3 L Donald (Eng) 7.37
4 P Mickelson (US) 6.51
5 G McDowell (N Irl) 5.84
6 T Woods (US) 5.72
7 R McIlroy (N Irl) 5.64
8 P Casey (Eng) 5.59
9 S Stricker (US) 5.48
10 M Kuchar (US) 5.21