Winning two tour money titles would be greatest achievement, says Donald

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Luke Donald says reaching the world No. 1 ranking without winning a major was quite a feat in itself.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | 2:04 p.m.

Luke Donald believes completing an historic money list double in Dubai this weekend will be his greatest achievement in golf.

And should be hold off Rory McIlroy -- a player Donald reckons has more talent than anybody he has ever competed against, including Tiger Woods -- for the European Tour crown, the world No. 1 will be able to dedicate it to his late father.

"If it works out on Sunday, it will be my biggest accomplishment," said Donald as he prepared to defend a lead of more than $1 million over McIlroy at the Dubai World Championship. McIlroy is the only player left with a chance to take the money crown from Donald.

First prize is $1.24 million, so even if Northern Ireland's young U.S. Open champion wins the event, Donald needs "only" to finish in the top nine to put the icing on a magnificent season's work.

Donald returned last week from a month-long break during which his father Colin died suddenly and his second daughter was born only a few days later.

"It's been a wide range of emotions, something you can't ever prepare for," he said. "My father's death was very, very sad and very tough, but the birth of my second daughter spread a little grace on the situation. I'm not sure he will specifically be on my mind this weekend, but it would be nice to win it for him."

The PGA Tour money title is already in the bag, achieved in spectacular fashion in October.

Donald went into the final event of their season trailing Webb Simpson by nearly $360,000. He had to finish first or second just to have a chance of taking the cash crown, and with a round to play was in 14th place five shots off the lead.

With nine holes left it was Simpson out in front, but Donald birdied the next six and, with Simpson falling back, an inward 30 made Donald the first European to top the money list in the States.

Now his sights are on becoming the first player of any nationality to do the official double in the same season -- although in truth Tiger Woods has done it six times, but never played enough European events to be considered an official member.

"Nobody has officially done it and that's pretty amazing," he said.

Donald is not expecting it to be easy, however, and was not surprised when McIlroy won the UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday to keep the race very much alive. While that was happening, Donald was finishing seventh out of 12 at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, 10 strokes adrift of winner Lee Westwood.

"It served its purpose -- it was a week for shaking off some rust," Donald said. "I didn't do a lot during my time off, so it was an opportunity to play four rounds and find a bit of timing and rhythm. That's what I used it as."

With the 58-strong field playing in reverse money list order in the first round, Donald and McIlroy tee off last. Neither can remember the last time they played together, but Donald has no doubt where he places the 22-year-old.

"Tiger's mindset is what separated himself when he was at the top of the game, but in terms of talent I think Rory has more," Donald said. "I see him winning lots of tournaments and lots of majors. I think the sky is the limit."

Asked, though, if he expected or just hoped to hold the youngster off this week Donald paused for a long time before deciding to go for neither as an answer.

"I want to," he said. "It would be nice to be sitting on the beach right now with a cocktail in my hand and not worrying about it too much, but there's nothing really easy in life. It's made me more focused this week and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

On his father's death, he added: "When someone leaves you, you're always reminded of them in certain ways.

"My dad brought me into the game. We didn't play a lot, but he would take me out sometimes, even mornings before school at like 7:00 a.m. for a quick nine holes, and I have fond memories of that," he said. "He didn't play a lot, but his big line was he taught me everything he knew. He always took full credit for my success.

"His passing was unexpected and to happen a few days before my second daughter was born was a wide range of emotions. It was something you can't ever prepare for and it was very, very sad. I lost a good friend and someone that I think brought me up in a proper way," he explained. "He was never as concerned about my golf as he was bringing me up as a decent person with good morals and someone that set a good example. It was very, very tough, but the birth did spread a little grace on the situation."

Donald has been at the top of the world rankings since beating previous incumbent Westwood in a BMW PGA Championship playoff at Wentworth in May. Like Westwood, he is still without a major and while without one there will probably always be critics.

"They make me stronger, to be honest. Every time someone says I can't do a thing it just makes me work harder," Donald said. "Getting to No. 1 and not winning a major is almost harder to do and quite a feat. There's more points in majors and if you win one you really jump up.

"I think I'm a different player this year because of all the victories (two in America, two in Europe). Hopefully I can bring that game to the majors."