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Playoff Decides Humana

La Quinta, Calif. — Brian Gay won the Humana Challenge on Sunday, beating Charles Howell III with a 5 1/2-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff after front-running Scott Stallings gave away a large lead.

Gay closed with a 9-under 63 on PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course to match Howell and Swedish rookie David Lingmerth at 25-under 263.

Howell shot a 64, and Lingmerth had a 62. Stallings, five strokes ahead entering the round, bogeyed the final hole for a 70 to miss the playoff by a stroke.

The 41-year-old Gay began the round six strokes behind Stallings.

“The thoughts were, ‘Just be aggressive, shoot as low as you can,’ ” Gay said. “I knew Scott was five ahead. Even with a great round, a really low round, it would be tough to catch him, if at all. I played great on the front, just tried to stay aggressive and shoot low.”

Gay and Howell opened the playoff with birdies on the par-5 18th, and Lingmerth dropped out with a bogey after hitting his approach into the left-side water.

Gay won on the par-4 10th, hitting a perfect drive and putting his 9-iron second shot in good position below the hole. Howell drove into the right rough, hit his second into the back bunker, blasted out to 15 feet and two-putted for bogey.

“I’m still in a little bit of shock,” Gay said. “It kind of happened so fast there at the end the way things went down. Last year was a struggle. It was a long year, a lot of work. I just wanted to come out this year kind of refocused, recharged, and believing in myself.”

Howell tied for second a week after opening the season with a third-place tie in Hawaii in the Sony Open. He won the last of his two tour titles in 2007.

After birdieing nine of the first 13 holes, Gay finished regulation with five straight pars. On the 18th, he missed the green to the right and failed to hole an 8-foot birdie try.

Donaldson Claims Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Jamie Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi Championship by one shot yesterday, with Justin Rose narrowly missing a birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff.

Rose’s 8-foot putt rimmed out of the hole, giving the Welshman his second European Tour victory. He shot a 68 to finish at 14-under 274.

Rose (71) threw his club up in the air in frustration while Donaldson flashed a relieved smile. Rose tied for second with Thorbjorn Olesen (69) of Denmark, who also failed to force a playoff on the 18th when his 15-foot birdie putt rolled past the hole. Olesen, playing with Rose, had putted first.

“It was a tough field, brutal golf course,” said Donaldson, whose win will move him in into the world’s top 30.

It was fifth-ranked Rose’s tournament to lose. The Englishman had a two-shot lead over Donaldson and Olesen and led all week, hitting greens and making timely putts. But he was shaky from the start Sunday, scrambling early to save pars and then hitting errant drives on Nos. 5, 11 and 16 that led to bogeys, while finding it difficult to read the greens.

“It was definitely hard work today,” Rose said. “You want to close out with a chance to win when you have it and didn’t do that today. But I didn’t do a lot wrong, either.”

The 47th-ranked Donaldson won his first tournament last year in his 266th European Tour event.

After Rose hit a drive into the trees for a bogey on No. 16 then missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, Donaldson appeared in control. But the Welshman didn’t make it easy for himself. He missed a long birdie putt on the final hole and then a 5-foot putt for par. He settled for a bogey and figured there would be a playoff.

“It was annoying to finish like that,” Donaldson said. “But you need a little luck sometimes in golf to win.”