Golf notebook

Donald’s season continues to point forward

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 3, 2011

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NORTON - Luke Donald comes in as the top-ranked player in the world, the leading money winner this season on not only the PGA Tour but the European Tour, and within striking distance of winning the season-long points contests on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

With that kind of 2011 résumé, and because he tied for second at TPC Boston last year, Donald was expecting a big week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. A first-round 66, which had him one behind Troy Matteson, seemed to fit the profile.

“The goal is really to pick up a win before East Lake [site of the Tour Championship] and win one of the next two and at worst be in the top five,’’ said Donald, who sits fifth on the FedEx Cup points list. “I think that top five is important going into East Lake. You know if you go there and win, then it’s yours.’’

Counting the final round of the 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship, Donald’s last six rounds here have been 69-65-67-66-69-66, which adds up to 24 under par. He seems to be creating a nice comfort level at TPC Boston.

“It’s always nice to get off to a good start,’’ he said. “I’m in a great position.’’

Pressure packed Marc Leishman is this week’s bubble boy, No. 70 in the FedEx Cup standings, the number needed to advance to the third playoff event two weeks from now in Chicago. It’s not a totally unfamiliar position for the 27-year-old Australian: Two years ago, he came into the Deutsche Bank Championship No. 93, and needed an eagle on the final hole in the final round to move on.

Might it come down to that again?

“Hopefully not,’’ said Leishman, who opened with a 71. “It was good for me two years ago, and there’s less pressure now than there was then. I’m not putting any pressure on myself. If I can play well I’ll get there, if I don’t I’ll have three weeks off, simple as that.’’

Just making the cut doesn’t guarantee Leishman a trip to Chicago. He said he’ll need to finish in the top 30 or 40 to safely advance.

Horribly wrong Vijay Singh had every reason to feel confident, coming off a tie for third last week at the Barclays, a tie for fourth the week before that, and getting to 3 under through nine holes yesterday. Then he headed to the front nine at TPC Boston, and everything fell apart.

Two shots off the lead and tied for second when he teed off No. 1, he bunkered his approach to the first hole, left his third shot in the bunker, blasted out, and two-putted for double bogey. On the 550-yard second hole, Singh pulled his second shot, took a penalty drop, then dumped his fourth into the hazard fronting the green. After another penalty drop, Singh knocked his sixth shot on, but two-putted for triple bogey. He dropped five shots in two holes, carded two more bogeys, and came home in 43 for a 75.

Flag hunting Rookie Kyle Stanley was 1 under through 15 holes, but pulled his tee shot to the par-3 16th, heard the crowd groan, and didn’t know if his ball was safe or if it had bounced or rolled into the lake. Reaching the green, he found his ball, dry, but nearly up against the edge of the water, leaving an awkward stance, bad lie, and very little green to work with. Par seemed like a good goal, bogey more likely.

So, what happens? Stanley pops his chip out, hot as expected. It bounces a foot in front of the pin, takes one bounce, and disappears into the hole for an unlikely birdie.

“It was just a lucky shot,’’ said Stanley, who added a birdie on No. 18 to shoot 68. “The only way I really could stop it was to have it hit the pin, which it did.’’

Half and half Tommy Gainey also made an 8 on the second hole and shot 40 on the front nine to turn in 4 over. But four back-nine birdies, including on Nos. 17-18, brought “Two Gloves’’ back to even par . . . Scott Verplank’s playoff season is over, after the 47-year-old withdrew with a lingering wrist injury. Verplank, who was 86th in the points race, shot 78 . . . Trevor Immelman also withdrew after shooting 78, and at 79th in the points list, his playoffs are also over. But his departure wasn’t injury-related. The grandfather of his wife, Carminita, died . . . George McNeill (from 31 feet) and Adam Scott (from 16) eagled the par-4 fourth hole, which measured 289 yards . . . Defending champion Charley Hoffman opened with a 70, a number higher than any of his rounds when he won last year . . . Tickets for the final three days are still available, at area Golf Town stores, the tournament’s website (, or at will call, which is located near spectator parking at the Comcast Center.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at