Wild card Donald rolls to 5-stroke win

Originally Published: September 5, 2004
ESPN.com news services

CRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland -- Britain's Luke Donald repaid Bernhard Langer's faith in him by winning the European Masters on Sunday, one week after the European Ryder Cup captain handed him a wild-card spot.

Donald repeated the feat of U.S. wild card Stewart Cink by winning his first time out after being given a captain's pick, as the 26-year-old Englishman claimed his second European Tour title in five weeks.

A closing 5-under-par 66 for a 19-under 265 left Donald five strokes in front of Miguel Angel Jimenez and six shots ahead of fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, veteran Argentine Eduardo Romero and Briton Robert Coles.

It gave Europe's three Ryder Cup players in Switzerland a 1-2-3 finish.

The trio had been out in front all week, providing more cheer for Langer with the match against the U.S. at Oakland Hills only 12 days away.

Jimenez and Garcia had swapped places on top of the leaderboard over the first three rounds but Donald, a stroke behind leader Jimenez overnight, showed his determination to outdo the Spaniards with an eagle at the first.

Garcia, also a stroke adrift of Jimenez overnight, caught Donald after the fifth.

But a double bogey on the long 14th, when he hit his second shot out of bounds, took Garcia out of contention, and with Jimenez stalling, Donald stepped in for the $320,000 first prize.

It was the U.S. Tour-based Briton's second victory in only his 14th professional European Tour event, as he followed up his Scandinavian Masters success.

He has played most of his golf in America since switching from the amateur ranks in 2001.

"I'm glad I made the decision to come over here and play and rejoin the European tour, and everything has worked out just perfectly," said Donald, a former NCAA champion at Northwestern. "It was a fun week ... especially for me. I made a lot of putts."

Since Langer persuaded Donald in July to fulfill his mandatory 11 European events, the British youngster has not looked back, picking up more than $850,000 in prize money from just six European money-list events.

With a formidable match-play record in the Walker Cup of seven wins out of eight, Donald looks primed for his Ryder Cup debut.

"I knew I had the ability to win two tournaments, but having the ability and doing it are two different things," he said.

"I would think I have justified my pick [by Langer]. It was great all three of us in the Ryder Cup playing the way we did, and I think this is a strong message to send to the U.S. guys. It's great for European morale."

Jimenez, leader after the first and third rounds, had to accept second-best this time after completing his fourth win of the year last week. He is still targeting six wins in this campaign and moves up a place to third on Europe's money list.

"I didn't play as good as the first two days, but this is still a good boost for the Ryder Cup," Jimenez said.

Garcia, having played most of his season in America, had his best European finish of the year, then praised Donald.

"You have to give all the credit in the world to Luke, and even if he'd not won, he deserves to be on the [Ryder Cup] team. It was always a good choice."

Romero, 50, proved he does not yet need to move to seniors golf; the two-time winner at Crans-sur-Sierre again excelled.

Defending champion Ernie Els was unhappy as he closed with a double bogey to finish eight strokes adrift of Donald.

"It wasn't a nice day -- all rush then wait," said the South African, who is ranked No. 3 in the world. "I didn't find any rhythm."

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.