LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Already No. 1 in the world, Luke Donald left little doubt who was No. 1 on the PGA Tour.
Believing his only chance to capture the PGA Tour money title was to win at Disney, Donald ran off six consecutive birdies on the back nine Sunday and closed with 8-under-par 64 to come from five shots off the lead and win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.
Donald, who trailed Webb Simpson by $363,029 coming into the final tournament of the year, was two behind Simpson at the turn. Then came a performance that ranks among Donald’s best, even in his greatest season of golf.
He holed four consecutive birdie putts inside 8 feet, took the lead with an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 14th hole, then sealed his stunning rally with a 45-foot birdie on the 15th hole.
“Everything was on the line,” Donald said. “I’m thrilled and over the moon.”
It was his second PGA Tour win of the year. Donald also won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.
With no one else winning more than twice this year, he established himself as a heavy favorite to be PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Equally important, he kept 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 Rory McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, with five tournaments remaining.
Donald wound up with a two-shot win over Justin Leonard, who finished with eight pars for 71. Leonard already is exempt for next year, but kept alive his streak of never finishing out of the top 125 on the money list since joining the tour in 1994.
Tom Pernice Jr., a 52-year-old who refuses to give up on playing with guys half his age, closed with 69 for a three-way tie for third, earning enough money to finish at No. 121 and earn back his PGA Tour card.
There were plenty of twists and turns at the bottom of the money list, as players were grinding to finish in the top 125 to have full status on tour next year.
Bobby Gates missed a 6-foot putt on the final hole but still appeared safe. Pernice only moved into the top 125 when Nick O’Hern bogeyed his last hole and fell out of the logjam at third place. On the other side of the Magnolia Course, D.J. Trahan knocked in a 22-foot birdie putt on his last hole at No. 9 .
That ultimately enabled Trahan to finish at No. 125 on the money list by $1,431 over Gates.
“I don’t know what par would have done,” Trahan said. “I really, honestly don’t know what difference that would have made, but birdie certainly didn’t hurt me. So I’m thrilled that I made that putt.”
Kevin Chappell, a rookie who shared the 54-hole lead with Leonard, was tied for the lead when he missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 10th and dropped a shot on the 11th when he hit into a bunker. Chappell closed with 72.