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Sunday, 11 December 2011
Luke Donald  (Getty Images)
Luke Donald (Getty Images)
What a year for Luke Donald - and all the more amazing because nobody saw it coming.

Lee Westwood was the English star riding high at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking at the start of the season, while three other Europeans - Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell (both Major Champions) and Paul Casey - were also ahead of ninth-placed Donald.

He had not won in America since 2006 and his only victory in Europe in the previous six years had come in the Madrid Masters.

There were certainly plenty of questions for him to answer, but the critics have surely been silenced after the 34 year old’s unprecedented money list double.

"The critics will always be there and they make me stronger to be honest," he said. "Every time someone says I can't do a thing it just makes me work harder."

First, though, came a long winter break and when he missed the cut in his first event in mid-February, slumping to a second round 79, it looked as if it might take time for him to find his form.

There was certainly no talk of him challenging for the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic at that point.

"It's not something I really thought about at the beginning of the year," Donald said. "I remember Ernie (Els) talking about it once and how hard it would be, but how satisfying."

After his early exit from the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles, Donald headed south to Tucson for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play - and what a different story that was.

With a Ryder Cup record of only two defeats in 11 games - and only one in eight Walker Cup games during his amateur days - it was not a total surprise that he should excel in match play.

But to go through six rounds without ever trailing and without ever needing to play the final hole filled Donald with confidence.

And set him on his way to all that would follow, of course.

It was Kaymer, the player he beat in the final, who went to World Number One that weekend, but after Westwood had regained top spot with two wins in Asia, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club changed things again.

Donald defeated Westwood in a play-off for the biggest strokeplay win of his life - and opened the floodgates.

The Barclays Scottish Open was taken with a dazzling closing 63 and the Children's Miracle Classic in Florida with an even more brilliant back nine of 30 that made him the first European to top the US PGA Tour money list.

He had gone into that final event needing nothing worse than a second place finish and had won it. Even if the Majors had eluded him for another season, he had taken his game to new heights and had silenced most, if not all, of those critics.

Away from the course he would like to have said it was a wonderful year too, but as his wife waited to give birth to their second daughter in October, Donald learnt that his father had died suddenly.

The two events happened just a few days apart and Donald took more than a month off.

But, try as US Open Champion Rory McIlroy did to try to catch him at the top of The Race to Dubai, Donald was not to be denied on his return.

All that can make 2012 better, of course, is if that first Major victory follows.

It would shock nobody if it does. That is how far he has come this year.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-19
2LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-17
3DONALD, LukeENG18-16
4HANSON, PeterSWE18-14
5SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-13
T6MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-12
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