In coming third at the Dubai World Championship, Luke Donald confirmed a historic double by becoming the first player to officially top the money lists on both the European and PGA Tours.
The public outside of golf have yet to catch up with .the Englishman’s achievements – which they may well do at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the year awards. Yet Donald has shown a new found physical and mental strength in 2011 – winning four tournaments, including the world matchplay championship and the BMW Championship (the flagship event of the European Tour). 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. Staggeringly in 25 official events in Europe and the US Donald made the top 10 on 19 occassions.
Those that play the game will recognise Donald’s incredible achievement. Giving away 30 yards to the new breed of golfing bombers, Donald evened the field with his precise Mizuno iron play, incredible short game and unmatched concentration. At one point Donald went 449 holes without a three putt – a feat that broke the hearts of all around him.
More importantly Donald performed when he absolutely had to – a characteristic not yet embedded in his current crop of competitors. With Webb Simpson looking to have pipped Donald to the US money list in October (having played more events), Donald was left with just an unscheduled event in Disney to draw level. With a new baby on the way and his caddies wedding to attend in the UK, Donald simply slotted the event into his schedule – with the one and only option of winning. After arriving back from the wedding (and giving his newly married caddy the week off), Donald arrived at Disney having barely touched a club for a week. Using the tournament as its own warm up, Donald went into ‘win at all costs’ mode. The putts dropped on day four and the US money list was secured.
In the midst of an emotional personal month (from the joy of a new baby to the sadness of losing his father), the European money list still looked an easier task. That until his closest challenger Mcllroy won the season’s penultimate event – setting up the shoot out in Dubai, a course known to suit the longer hitters. With Donald needing a top 10 to neutralise a Mcllroy win the Englishman simply set his goals, and took the job in hand. After a slow first round Donald gathered steam over the last 3 days to finish 3rd making Mcllroys finish irrelevant. Once again Donald had taken control of his own destiny.
Those who question Donald’s credentials as world #1 need only look at his new found ability to perform under pressure and consistency over the year. Some point to a lack of a major title. However there are few sports where a week of well timed form is considered a superior outcome to a year of top level performance. Was Open Champion Paul Lawrie a better player than eight time order of merit winner Colin Montgomerie?
Look again at the time Donald has spent as world #1. The golf world has become used to the dominance of Woods, but Donald has superceded all of the current generation.
Only a few marquee players have held the #1 position longer than Donald - Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Nick Price and Vijay Singh. Those who have held the World No 1 spot, but not for as long as Donald. include Fred Couple, David Duval , Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, and Bernhard Langer, and American Tom Lehmnan.
Maybe we can’t quite believe the nice guy from England has come out on top. Though it looks time for the golfing world to show due respect to the iron man.
Equipment: Luke Donald has played Mizuno irons since buying his first set. Luke played Mizuno irons at Nothwestern University and still plays his faithful Mizuno MP-62's and MP T-11 Grain Flow Forged wedges.