Snedeker wins Heritage, denies Donald top spot

Luke Donald lost this latest chance at No. 1, but he is
confident he will get another opportunity.

Donald fell in a three-hole playoff at The Heritage after Brandt
Snedeker closed with a surprising 7-under 64. The 33-year-old
Donald could have jumped up from No. 3, surpassing previously
top-ranked Martin Kaymer and fellow Englishman and Ryder Cup
partner, Lee Westwood, at No. 2. Instead, Westwood takes over the
top spot after winning the Indonesian Masters earlier Sunday.

”To be No. 1 would’ve been great, but it’s not everything,”
Donald said. ”It certainly would be a tick in the box and it would
be something great to talk to the grandkids in 30 years time and
say that you were the best in the world, but I still have a lot of
chances to do that.”

Donald appeared on his way to the top after back-to-back birdies
on the fourth and fifth holes pushed him to 13-under par and alone
in front. But bogeys on the seventh and 10th holes dropped him back
and he couldn’t get back to that level the rest of the round.

It took stellar par saves on the 71st and 72nd holes simply to
remain tied with Snedeker and force the playoff. The pair matched
birdies and pars on the first two extra holes, and Snedeker secured
the win with a two-putt par when Donald could not save par one last
time from a bunker in front of the closing lighthouse hole, No.
18.

Snedeker, who played Donald at college level, has deep respect
for the Match Play Championship winner’s ability. When it ended,
Snedeker counseled Donald to keep his chin up.

”I just told him he’s going to be No. 1. Sorry it didn’t go the
right way for him,” Snedeker said. ”He’s that kind of
player.”

Donald couldn’t match Snedeker when it counted most at Harbour
Town Golf Links. Donald played the first 36 holes in 10 under to
take the lead. He closed 70-70, giving Snedeker the opening.

Snedeker survived against one of the world’s best in a gritty
three-hole playoff for his second career PGA Tour win and first
since the 2007 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina,
during his rookie season.

”It’s a storybook ending really, to be playing Luke in a
playoff, to even have a chance to win was exciting to me,” he
said.

Donald lost after blasting out about 15 feet from the flag on
the 18th and his chip for par from just off the green hit the back
edge of the cup and bounced away.

Tommy Gainey finished a stroke back in third after a 68.

Donald was the steadiest player most of the week at Harbour
Town. He caught Snedeker with a birdie on No. 13, then parred his
way in for the playoff.

”It was going to be some big rewards if I won today,” Donald
said. ”But I’ll try and find the positives from this week and move
on.”

At least Donald leaves No. 1 at something, making $615,000 to
top the PGA Tour money list.

Snedeker earned $1,026,000. The biggest question facing Snedeker
now is whether he’ll be back to defend his title.

The Heritage is without a title sponsor, something PGA Tour and
event leaders say is essential for its return in 2012. There was
talk all week of a Sunday surprise, an announcement of a backer to
give assurances to pros. None was forthcoming, though, and
tournament director Steve Wilmot said ”the sponsorship search
continues in earnest.”

Gainey, bidding to become the first South Carolina native to win
the state’s PGA Tour event, missed a 15-foot birdie putt on his
final hole that would’ve put him in the playoff.

”I would have loved to have won,” said Gainey, who gained fame
as ”Two Gloves” on Golf Channel’s ”Big Break” series. ”I think
it’s the second-best tournament on tour” behind the Masters.

Defending champion Jim Furyk finished with his highest score,
76, in his past 33 rounds at Harbour Town to fall from
contention.

”I just kind of got on a bad roll and it snowballed on me
today,” he said.