World No1 Luke Donald tops the US and European money lists
Luke Donald becomes first man to win money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season after third-place finish in Dubai
Luke Donald became the first man in the history of golf to win both the PGA and European Tour money lists after he finished third at the Dubai World Championship.
It is a testament to his drive, attitude, work ethic and unbelievable consistency, and there can surely be no one left associated with golf that is sceptical about his position as world No1.
For Rory McIlroy, a combination of tiredness and illness took its toll over the weekend. He was noticeably exhausted, and in truth, ran out of steam after his opening 66. He will be first to congratulate Donald, however, in recognition of the magnitude of his achievement.
The Dubai World Championship itself was won by Spaniard Alvaro QuirÃ³s, a potential star of the future, who excelled on a course set up perfectly for someone in possession of his great power and length.
He recorded a final round of 67 to win by two shots from Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, who capped off his solid season with a fine performance in Dubai.
Donald finished in third place on 16 under par, once again displaying why he has reached the lofty heights atop the Official World Golf Ranking. He sensationally played his last 47 holes without a bogey to narrowly miss out on his fifth victory of a truly spectacular season.
The ever improving Swede Peter Hanson played some wonderfully fluid golf to threaten the leaders, until a double bogey at the treacherous par-three 17th put paid to his chances of success. He shot a closing 67 to finish on fourteen under par; a hugely significant birdie at the last giving him exemption for the 2012 Masters Tournament. Hanson, based on the evidence from this week, is a major championship player.
South African Charl Schwartzel finished alone in fifth on thirteen under, one shot clear of Francesco Molinari and compatriot Louis Oosthuizen, who shot 69 and 71 respectively to finish the tournament in a tie for sixth.
McIlroy finished in a tie for 11th (-9) alongside some of the best players in the world game: Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Robert Karlsson and German Martin Kaymer, who was unable to reproduce his Saturday heroics.
It was a wonderful end to a phenomenal season: Donald finishing, again, with three birdies; veteran Paul Lawrie finishing alone in second, and the brilliant QuirÃ³s making a superb eagle on the last after holing a forty foot putt.
It was an electric start from the Spaniard, who was in imperious form as he birdied the first three holes. Further birdies came at five and seven, only to be offset by mistakes at four and six. He had to wait until the eighth hole for his first par of the day. He also bogeyed nine to go out in 34, and played solid if unspectacular golf coming home to reach the eighteenth with a one stroke lead.
He hit a nice three wood to the left centre of the fairway, and the same club was utilised to find the green from over 250 yards. The thought of a lay up was barely entertained, not entirely surprising for someone with such a prodigious long game. As he was standing over his putt, there was a sense of inevitability, and he duly holed for his third eagle of the tournament to ensure victory.
“This week was a great help”, he said, referring to having faith in his unquestionable ability, before adding: “it was unbelievable. [I am] very pleased to finish 2011 winning twice, for many reasons.”
It was a closely fought duel between him and Scotsman Lawrie, who held the lead at one stage. He was five under for his first eight holes, but struggled to get under par on the back side. His lone birdie came at the 18th, but it was too little, too late. Nonetheless, a second place finish to go with his victory in Malaga represent a very successful 2011 for the 42 year old.
Donald played a round that we are becoming accustomed to seeing on a regular basis. He was three under after 15 holes, with three birdies and no mistakes, but repeated Friday’s feat and birdied the last three holes. Glorious approaches to 16 and 17 set up birdies, and the best wedge player in the game hit it within five feet from 106 yards on the 18th and holed to finish on 16 under par.
Donald confessed that it was “hard to concentrate”, having “so many mixed emotions.” On winning both money lists, he added: “It’s something that I really didn’t think was possible. [It’s] testament to my hard work and nice to see it pay off.” The ever humble Donald is a credit to the game and a perfect idol for aspiring sportsmen.
It was also a significant tournament for Peter Hanson. Three birdies in a row from the 9th and another at 15 put him in position to mount a late challenge, but a poor tee shot at 17 found the water and led to a double bogey five. He bounced back, however, to make birdie on the last. He finished in the top 15 in the Race to Dubai, ensuring a healthy bonus, but more importantly secured a spot in the Masters Tournament next season.
Current Masters champion Charl Schwartzel played well, but wasn’t able to break the course record; something he would have needed to do to ensure victory. He finished alone in fifth place. Francesco Molinari finished well to card a 69 and end the tournament alongside Louis Oosthuizen (71) in a tie for sixth on twelve under par.
Even though QuirÃ³s recorded the biggest victory of his career, the day, and indeed the entire season, belong to Donald.
His outstanding work ethic and desire to succeed have facilitated one of the most impressive achievements in the history of sport. All credit to McIlroy, who came so close, but he will be relishing playing on the PGA Tour next year.
The 2011 season may be over, but 2012 looks set to be the one of the most exciting in the history of the sport.