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Luke Donald the big threat to Rory McIlroy’s hopes of US glory


Luke Donald celebrates winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Luke Donald celebrates winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Luke Donald celebrates winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth

Luke Donald has knocked Rory McIlroy off the top of the world for the third time in as many months — and the Englishman’s BMW PGA victory was so comprehensive it’ll come as no surprise if he relieves the Ulsterman of his US Open title at Olympic next month.

Even when he’s not at his most precise off tee or fairway, Donald appears utterly invincible around and on the greens.

He looks almost as infallible over putts up to 10 feet and more as the Tiger Woods of old.

Donald has moved so far ahead of McIlroy in the world rankings, the Holywood hero cannot catch him even if he eclipses the new World No 1 at The Memorial in Muirfield Village, Ohio this week.

Though McIlroy missed his second cut in a row on Friday and, after working on the range at Wentworth on Saturday, flew to Paris to be with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki that evening as she prepared for the French Open, he could well get back to winning ways next Sunday on a golf course which suits him to a tee.

Two Irish golfers also managed to deliver stellar performances at Wentworth.

The 10th place achieved by David Higgins to match the best in modern times by any PGA Regional Professional at this showpiece championship was heroic.

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Peter Lawrie, meanwhile, was the week’s most outstanding performer from tee to green, matching Donald, his playing companion on Saturday, in that department and outshining Ernie Els yesterday.

There was no little irony about the monster birdie putt the laconic Dubliner holed on the green at 18 for his closing 71, outright fourth place and a cheque for €225,000, making this his biggest payday on Tour since winning the Open de Espana in 2008.

Lawrie said: “At least the bank manager is off my back now and that’s my card sorted out.”

His Scottish namesake Paul Lawrie posted a Sunday-best 66 to tie Justin Rose for second on 11-under, the latter knocking McIlroy out of the lead in the Race to Dubai.

They finished four behind the winner, who earned his place alongside Nick Faldo in history as the only two players to record back-to-back victories at this championship with a closing 68.

Donald completed all four rounds in the 60s, his 69 in truly wicked conditions on Saturday offering irrefutable evidence of this 33-year-old’s ability to challenge strongly for his first Major title at the US Open.

Conditions at Wentworth on Saturday were so ludicrously hard and fast, Els launched a blistering foul-mouthed attack on Tour and tournament officials for failing to water the course he designed.

The South African profusely apologised to Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and other officials in person for his intemperate language and made “a substantial donation” to the Tour’s Benevolent Trust — significantly, Els did not withdraw the substance of the points he made.

Still, Donald had a chance on Saturday to show how well he can perform in conditions similar to those likely to prevail at Olympic.

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