The No. 1 player in the world, Pro V1x loyalist Luke Donald, put an exclamation point on the finest season of his career on Sunday, coming from five shots behind to win the Children's Miracle Network Classic. In the process, Donald also secured the PGA Tour money title, edging Titleist Brand Ambassador Webb Simpson, whom he trailed by over $300,000 coming into the final event of the 2011 season.
The season-ending win by Donald, the 32nd victory for Titleist golf ball players on the 2011 PGA Tour, marks his 4th career PGA Tour title and his second of the 2011 campaign (he also triumphed at the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship).
Donald's charge to victory highlighted seven wins on the week for Titleist players across the worldwide professional tours – increasing Titleist's 2011 win count to 153, more than six times the nearest competitor with 23 and more than all competitors combined.
A total of 18,559 players have teed up Titleist golf balls in worldwide pro events this season, more than six times the nearest competitor with 2,900 and more than all other golf balls combined.
Trusting a Titleist Pro V1x golf ball, Donald ran off six straight birdies to begin the back nine of his final round. He holed four straight birdie putts inside 8 feet, took the lead with an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 14th hole, then capped off the comeback with a 45-foot birdie on the 15th hole. Donald finished with an 8-under 64, good for a 17-under 271 total at Disney, two strokes clear of his nearest competitor.
"Obviously I came here and I told you guys on Wednesday that the goal was to win," Donald said. "Nothing was really going to be good enough other than that. I think this is probably one of the most satisfying wins of my career just because of that. It was kind of do or die." He added, "Having this amount on the line this week and coming up and shooting 30 on the back nine on Sunday, finding the shots when I needed to, you know, really will mean a lot to me and to all the people that I work with."
The win at Disney is Donald's first stroke play title in more than five years. The victory also clinched the Vardon Trophy for the 33-year-old, who led the PGA Tour with the lowest adjusted scoring average of 68.86. Furthermore, Donald keeps alive his bid to become the first player to win the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season. His lead in Europe is just over $1.8 million over Titleist Brand Ambassador Rory McIlroy with five tournaments remaining.
Titleist Brand Ambassador Tom Pernice Jr. (Pro V1x, 910D3 driver, 910F fairway metal, 910H hybrids, 712 series AP2 prototype irons, Vokey Design wedges, Scotty Cameron Kombi putter) and Pro V1x loyalist Sung-Hoon Kang were among three players that tied for 3rd place. The performance earned Pernice, who also competes on the Champions Tour, enough to vault him to No. 121 on the official money list and earn back his PGA Tour card for the 2012 season.
Webb Simpson (pictured right) closed with a 3-under 69 to tie for 6th with four other players, including Billy Mayfair (Pro V1x) and Nick O'Hern (Pro V1). Simpson caps off a remarkable season on the PGA Tour, having won twice (Wyndham Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship), finishing second to Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas in the FedExCup race and finishing runner-up to Donald on the official money list with over $6 million in earnings in 2011.
"We both kind of had our moments playing great golf this week," said Simpson, who played alongside Luke Donald for each of the final three rounds, adding a measure of drama to their individual battle. "He did his at the end when it counts. We had a blast out there. Kind of a tiring week playing together every day and thinking about all that's going on. I'm glad it's over. He played great."
Here's a closer look at Webb Simpson's Titleist equipment:
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Titleist 909D3 10.5° (UST AxivCore 69)
Fairway wood: Titleist 910F 13.5° (UST VTS 8X)
Fairway wood: Titleist 910F 17° (UST VTS 8X)
Hybrid: Titleist 910H 21° (Graphite Design Tour AD DI 105)
Irons: Titleist 680 MB 4-P (True Temper Dynamic Gold)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design TVD 54°, 58° (True Temper Dynamic Gold)
Titleist Brand Ambassador D.J. Trahan (Pro V1x, 909D3 driver, 909F2 fairway metal, MB irons, Vokey Design wedges, Scotty Cameron Kombi long putter) sank a 22-foot birdie putt on his final hole of the tournament (the 9th on the Magnolia Course). The putt allowed Trahan to climb to No. 125, the final exempt spot on the official money list, a mere $1,431 more than fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Bobby Gates (Pro V1x, 910D3 driver, 910F fairway metal, 910H hybrid, 712 series prototype MB irons, Vokey Design prototype SM4 wedges, Scotty Cameron Kombi long putter).
BY THE STATS: Luke Donald led the field at Disney in Birdies (24) and Putts-Per-GIR (1.604). For the season, Donald led the Tour in scoring (68.86 average) and top-10 finishes with 14 top-10s in only 19 events played. Donald also finished first in the Tour's new Strokes Gained - Putting statistic with a mark of .844. Testament to his consistent performance in 2011, Webb Simpson finished 2nd to Donald in top-10s (12/26) and scoring average with a mark of 69.25.
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Children's Miracle Network Classic with 91 players, seven times the nearest competitor with 13. Titleist also was first in iron sets (32); sand, lob and approach wedges (106); and putters (50).
• LPGA TOUR: It was a picture-perfect homecoming for World No. 1 Yani Tseng, who relied on a Pro V1x golf ball to capture the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship for her 10th worldwide victory of the year and the third in her native country. The 22-year-old Taiwanese star closed with a six-under 66 for a five-shot victory over Spain's Azahara Munoz (Pro V1) and South Korea's Amy Yang (Pro V1). After her victory, Tseng donated $100,000 to the Golf Association Republic of China to help promote junior golf in the region.
“I’m just really surprised how many people are here just supporting this tournament, supporting the golf because like I say, at first golf is not as popular like baseball, basketball here,” Tseng said, “but now seems like we're growing it a lot, and I'm really happy to see this. I wish in the future there will be more people and more people playing.”
Tseng finished at 16-under 272 at Sunrise Golf & Country Club for her seventh LPGA Tour victory of the season, which includes two major championships. She has 12 victories in four seasons on the tour. Earlier this season,at the age of 22 years, 6 months, 8 days, Tseng became the youngest player ever, male or female, to win 5 majors after claiming the RICOH Women's British Open.
- Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship with 61 players, more than seven times the nearest competitor with 8.
• NATIONWIDE TOUR: Gavin Coles (Pro V1x) birdied two of the final three holes on Sunday to capture the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open by one shot over Pro V1x loyalist Jonas Blixt. It marked the fifth career Nationwide Tour for Coles. It was Blixt's third runner-up finish this year.
Coles won with a six-under 274 total, the highest winning score on the Nationwide Tour since 2008. It also assured him a promotion to the 2012 PGA Tour, having started the week 45th on the money list and vaulting to 15th. Blixt improved to fifth on the money list with his seventh top-10 finish of the season.
The Nationwide season concludes next week with the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island. The top-25 money winners after next week's finale will earn PGA TOUR cards for the 2012 season.
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open with 102 players, more than six times the nearest competitor with 16. Titleist also was first in iron sets (44); sand, lob and approach wedges (145); and putters (58).
• SUNSHINE TOUR: Titleist Pro V1x loyalist Darren Fichardt won the Sunshine Tour's Suncoast Classic by a six-shot margin. Fichardt fired a final round four-under par 68 en route to a 13-under, 203 victory total.
Ulrich van den Berg claimed solo 2nd place, while Alex Haindl, Allan Versfeld and Warren Abery shared 3rd position another shot back, as each of the top five finishers all relied upon the Titleist Pro V1x golf ball for their success.
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Suncoast Classic with 89 players (76%), more than three times the nearest competitor with 23.
• ASIAN TOUR/KOREAN TOUR: Titleist Pro V1 golf ball loyalist K.J. Choi of South Korea captured the title at his own tournament this past weekend - the inaugural CJ Invitational Hosted by KJ Choi at Haesley Nine Bridges GC in Seoul, South Korea. The tournament host closed with a five-under 67 for a 17-under 271 victory total, overcoming a three-shot deficit at the start of the day.
- Titleist Brand Ambassador Seung-yul Noh of South Korea (Pro V1x, 910D3 driver, 910Fd fairway metal, new 712 series MB prototype irons, Vokey Design pitching, sand and lob wedges, Scotty Cameron California Del Mar putter) closed with consecutive six-under par 66's to finish solo 2nd, two shots behind Choi. Overnight leader and Pro V1x loyalist Ki-sang Lee tied for 3rd place, two strokes further back.
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the CJ Invitational with 76 players (63%), more than four times the nearest competitor with 17. In fact, 8 of the 12 players who finished among the top 10 and ties relied upon Titleist golf balls for their success. Titleist also was first in hybrids (35); iron sets (32); and sand, lob and approach wedges (107).
• JAPAN TOUR: Trusting a Pro V1x golf ball, Toru Taniguchi closed with a six-under 65 to win the Bridgestone Open by five shots over four players, including fellow Pro V1x loyalist Michio Matsumura. Taniguchi, who also won the event in 2004, finished at 15-under 169. The win is the first of the season for Taniguchi, and the 17th of his JGTO career.
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Bridgestone Open with 42 players. Titleist also was first in hybrids (26); and sand, lob and approach wedges (82).
• EUROPEAN TOUR:
Titleist was the overwhelming golf ball of choice at the Castelló Masters with 70 players, more than five times the nearest competitor with 13.