2011 PGA Tour Week 8: WGC Match Play: Euros Storm to the Top in the World of Golf

Martin Kaymer congratulates Luke Donald on his WGC - Accenture Match Play victory.   Photo Credit: European Tour

Martin Kaymer congratulates Luke Donald on his WGC – Accenture Match Play victory. Photo Credit: European Tour

With snow on the ground in the morning, a hail storm in the afternoon, by nightfall in the Arizona desert four European golfers have stormed to the top of the world of golf.

In the 13th edition of the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play, Martin Kaymer displaced Lee Westwood and became the 14th golfer to be World No. 1.

On Sunday when Luke Donald defeated Kaymer for the Match Play championship, he leapfrogged from World No. 9 to No. 3 behind only Kaymer and Westwood.

2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell rounds out the European Top 4—the first time since March 1992 when Ian Woosnam (No. 1), Nick Faldo (2), Jose-Marie Olazabal (3) and Seve Ballesteros (4) led the world rankings.

With Tiger Woods No. 5 and Phil Mickelson No.6, then Paul Casey (7) and Rory McIlroy (8), the Euros hold six of the top eight spots.

The world order in golf has changed significantly since Phil Mickelson won the Masters nearly one year ago.

McDowell won at Pebble Beach, South African Louis Oosthuizen won the Open at St. Andrews and Kaymer beat Bubba Watson in the playoff at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship.

Then McDowell won the Ryder Cup for the Europeans in Celtic Manor in Wales to end the year 2010 completing the monumental shift in golfing prowess.

Now it looks as though America’s aged golfing stars are being passed by with only the young Matt Kuchar at World No. 10 coming into his prime.

We might very well see Westwood win his first major this year, and Donald or Casey too.

Okay, maybe the sky is not falling in for the Americans. Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan have developed quite nicely in the last year as well.

But the change has been as dramatic as Donald’s domineering performance in the six rounds of match play at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort.

Donald never trailed in any of his matches en route to his third and biggest win on the PGA Tour, but his first in five years.

The deepest he was all square in any of his matches was through 10 holes versus Martin Kaymer in the Championship Match, and Edoardo Molinari in the second round.

The Northwestern graduate trounced three Americans on his way to the title—6&5 over Charley Hoffman in Round one, 5&4 over Ryan Moore in the quarterfinals and 6&5 over Matt Kuchar in the semifinals.

Perhaps history will look to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines as the last low point of Donald’s career, and the last high point of Tiger Woods’ career.

Woods beat Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff to win his last (to date) major championship.

Donald had to withdraw during the fourth round on the 16th fairway after suffering a tendon injury to his left wrist which required surgery.

Donald came back at Tiger’s Chevron Challenge tournament late in the year; though he missed the Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

Donald, on the mend, had a decent year in 2009, and then again last year finishing second at East Lake in the TOUR championship. He was a member of the victorious European Ryder cup team in Wales last fall.

Now the artsy Donald has resumed his winning ways and is at his highest ever position in the world golf rankings at No. 3.

Woods, on the other hand, continued his winning ways in 2009, but then went winless in 2010 for the first time in his career and has yet to win his 15th major on the way to surpassing Nicklaus’ 18.

Golf’s “February Frenzy,” as coined on The Golf Channel by host Kelly Tilghman, produced outstanding drama over the five days of competition.

Steve Stricker on his 44th birthday was beaten by Matteo Manassero, a 17-year-old Italian golfer and the youngest ever in the event that features the Top 64 in the world golf rankings.

Tiger Woods, the No. 1 seed in the Sam Snead bracket, could not even tee off in his first round match against Thomas Bjorn until the first three matches of the day played through on the first tee heading to a sudden death conclusion.

Woods lost to Bjorn in 19 holes after watching defending champion Ian Poulter get beat by Stewart Cink on the 19th (first) hole.

Other No. 1 seeds, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood, lost in Round 2 to Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney, respectively.

Kaymer, the fourth No. 1 seed, became the new World No. 1 golfer after his semifinal win over Bubba Watson. The 26-year-old is the second German to do so (Bernard Langer).

With another WGC event one week away, and the Masters only five weeks away, the real drama in golf may be upcoming.


Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer covering all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

 Reistetter resides in Pont Vedra Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

 A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida and pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.

 Please comment directly on this article or email him at AndyReistetter@gmail.com