Luke Donald will celebrate his 52nd week in total – a collective year – as World Number One as he launches his defence of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title at Castle Stuart Golf Links this week.
Donald, who became Number One for the first time in May 2011 following his victory at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, last week surpassed Welshman Ian Woosnam, who spent 50 weeks at the top of the World Ranking, to move to third in the list of European World Number Ones.
Among the eight Europeans to have topped the Official World Golf Ranking, only the great Severiano Ballesteros (61 weeks) and Sir Nick Faldo (97 weeks) spent more time than the 34 year old Englishman at the game’s summit.
Donald’s time at the top has come in four batches, starting with an unbroken 40 weeks from his maiden ascent to the top last year, a stretch that was ended in late February 2012 when Rory McIlroy usurped his Ryder Cup team-mate thanks to victory at the US PGA Tour’s Honda Classic.
McIlroy’s coronation in Florida proved the prologue to an extraordinary two months in the Official World Golf Ranking as the World Number One baton was passed back and forth between Donald and the 23 year old a further five times, culminating once again at The European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth in May this year.
It was there Donald retained his BMW PGA Championship crown and – in a wonderful piece of symmetry – also regained the World Number One spot, just as he had done 12 months earlier.
And Donald will be hoping he can make it a unique ‘double-double’ in Inverness this week as he looks to retain the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open trophy he won by four shots in 2011, and with it extend his lead at the top over McIlroy and Number Three Lee Westwood in the process.
With neither Westwood nor McIlroy in Scotland this week, Donald has a superb opportunity to widen the gap, although he will still be faced with a world class field of Major Champions, Ryder Cup stars and European Tour winners that includes Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen.
Sir Nick Faldo’s 97 weeks at Number One came between September 1990 and January 1994, while Spaniard Seve Ballesteros’ combined 61 weeks at the top passed between April 1986 and August 1989.
Tiger Woods, of course, holds the undisputed record of total weeks spent at World Number One, having spent a collective 623 weeks there so far during an historic career, 292 weeks longer than the next on the list, Australia’s Greg Norman, who had a combined 331 weeks as World Number One over a 12 year period between 1986 and 1998.
Donald, however, has recently made history of his own, last year by becoming the first player to top the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season and the seven-time European Tour Champion will have his eyes on achieving more notable feats, starting this week at Castle Stuart.