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Donald returns to No. 1 as Dufner wins at last

updated 7:11 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Luke Donald ended Rory McIlroy's two-week stay at the top of the world golf rankings with a third-place finish at the Zurich Classic -- his best result of the year. Luke Donald ended Rory McIlroy's two-week stay at the top of the world golf rankings with a third-place finish at the Zurich Classic -- his best result of the year.
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Donald back on top
Dufner wins at last
Perfect wedding present
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Luke Donald replaces Rory McIlroy as No. 1 after third-place finish at Zurich Classic
  • McIlroy can return to the top with a good performance at the Wells Fargo Championship later this week
  • Jason Dufner wins the Zurich Classic for his first PGA Tour win, beating Ernie Els in a playoff
  • Els moves up to 40th in world rankings, likely earning him a place at the U.S. Open in June

(CNN) -- England's Luke Donald reclaimed golf's No. 1 ranking from Rory McIlroy by finishing third at the Zurich Classic, but it could be the shortest of stays at the top.

The Ryder Cup teammates have swapped places four times already this year and McIlroy can go back to the top with a good performance at this week's Wells Fargo Championship, while Donald takes a break.

The 34-year-old Donald only needed to finish in the top seven in Louisiana to reclaim the top ranking he lost two weeks ago, and closed with a final round of 67 to finish two shots off the pace at 17 under.

"That's a nice consolation," Donald said of the ranking. "It's been going back and forth a little bit. Rory's turn next week. It was a little bit of a motivation to try and play well today."

The No. 1 ranking has changed hands nine times in the last 18 months since Tiger Woods was toppled by Lee Westwood in October 2010. Martin Kaymer of Germany has also held the top spot.

McIlroy hasn't played since a disappointing showing at the Masters earlier this month.

Jason Dufner of the United States buried some of his own bad Masters memories by sinking a birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Ernie Els and win the Zurich Classic on Sunday.

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The 35-year-old Dufner shared the lead after two rounds in Augusta but faded to finish 24th. Last year, he led by four shots on the back nine of the final round of the PGA Championship and ended up losing a playoff to Keegan Bradley.

He held his nerve against Els to claim his first PGA title at the 164th attempt.

"There's a been a good bit of pressure," Dufner said on the PGA Tour website. "People talking about, 'Why aren't you winning? Why can't you close the deal?' Friends, family, media, even people in my inner circle. And not in a negative way, but when you're leading tournaments going into weekends and you're finishing 24th, there's going to be some questions."

In all, Dufner had led after the first two rounds of a PGA tournament six times and never closed out the win.

"To get the monkey off of my back, it's a great feeling," he said.

Dufner will now take the week off to get married to fiancee Amanda Boyd, although he said the honeymoon is on hold as he will compete at The Players Championship.

"You ever been there? They've got an island green. Pretty cool," Dufner joked.

His win moved him into the top 20, while Els' consolation was a rise to 40th which should be enough to qualify for the U.S. Open in June. Els missed the Masters after dropping out of the top 50.

To get the monkey off of my back, it's a great feeling
Jason Dufner

The South African finished with a 5-under 67 to join Dufner on a course record total of 19-under 269. He then had a chance for his first title win since 2010 on the first playoff hole, but missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

Second time around, Dufner found the green in two and was left with two putts for a birdie while three-time major champion Els failed to make his birdie attempt from the fringe.

"It was a nice little charge I made and, you know, nice to catch the leader," Els said. "I had a chance to win the tournament with a 6-footer and missed it, but I made quite a few putts on the back nine to keep myself in it."

Defending Zurich Open champion Bubba Watson, playing in his first tournament since winning the Masters, finished in a tie for 18th, eight shots adrift of the leaders.

"All in all, pretty good week being tired, coming back for the first time after winning the Masters, all this different media attention," Watson said. "It's something you got to get used to. It wears on you, tires you out. Somehow I finished -- I'm in the top 20. A lot of guys wished they did that."

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