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 Another Thing

Major duck but Donald worthy No. 1
It's been a marvellous season on both sides of the Atlantic for England's Luke Donald... is this a harbinger of the renaissance of Tiger Woods?... but it's wet blankets for wet bankers all over the world

Even victory in the UBS Hong Kong Open couldn't provide sufficient impetus for Rory McIlroy to go on to the Dubai World Championship and deny Luke Donald the attainment of a brilliant achievement: being the leading money-winner on both the European and PGA Tours in the same year. It should be said that Tiger Woods would have performed the trick multiple times had he ever played enough events in Europe to become eligible for the Order of Merit/Race top Dubai, but that doesn't diminish Donald's record: any time that Woods is the only asterisk against what you've accomplished on the golf course, it's more of a compliment than a caveat.

Donald didn't win in Dubai - as he had in the States - in order to wrap up his prize, but he didn't need to because McIlroy didn't win either. Having said that, Donald did shoot a pair of 66s on the weekend and birdied the last three holes to give himself a chance. Ultimately, he finished third, McIlroy 11th, while Alvaro Quiros took home the main spoils of the week.

Victory in the Disney tournament, the final event of the year, won the PGA Tour money list for Luke Donald, on the right
(Photography by

For the 34-year-old Englishman, it was a year cut through with happiness and sorrow off the course - his second child was born shortly after his father died. On it, he not only topped those two money lists, he ended the year as the No. 1 ranked golfer. McIlroy ended it as US Open champion; Woods, of course, has won 14 major championships. But to complain at the fact, as some have, that the man who is officially the world's best golfer has never won a major is to ignore what the world rankings measure. They measure consistency. A very high standard of consistency, like 20 top-10 finishes in 26 starts in 2011.

Anyone who claims that Donald lacks the X Factor ought to recall how he snatched the US money honours from under the nose of his final-round playing partner, Webb Simpson, in Florida in October. Five shots off the pace going into Sunday, Donald birdied the first six holes of the back nine and fired a 64 for victory and the money title. If that's not playing like the world's No. 1, I'm not sure what is. Mind you, a major sometime soon would be welcome as well.

The weekend Rory McIlroy won in Hong Kong was another of British golf's big guns win overseas - Lee Westwood at Sun City. How much media interest did they get? Well, quite a bit, given that this was in the heart of the football season. Except, of course, Tiger Woods also won, beating 17 other guys at his own event, the Chevron World Challenge in California. He got the sort of space you'd expect devoted to Wayne Rooney's latest altercation with officialdom.

Woods had gone 749 days and 26 tournaments since his previous victory, his pre-hydrant busting success at the 2009 Australian Masters. He finished in style, too, with back-to-back birdies to beat Zach Johnson by a shot. This 83rd career win moved Woods up from 52nd to 21st in the world rankings, a considerable upgrade although a far cry from those days when it seemed he'd likely be top of the tree for as long as he carried on playing.

Of course, one triumph in a limited-field tournament doesn't mean that Woods is anywhere close to being the player he used to be, even if the manner in which he closed it out will surely engender increased confidence when he is next under the gun - say in Abu Dhabi in January, perhaps? For now, we also have to remember how his front nine at Augusta last April vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard, at which point his charge became a stall. But the media excitement created by Tiger's recent win demonstrated that while the reconstruction of his game may be a work in progress, the allure he generated by his on-course exploits for over a decade has not been exhausted by subsequent dalliances off it.

Given the financial gloom that seems to be enveloping the world, and that the banking community in general has a reputation lower than the interest rates, perhaps there's no need to seek an answer to this question; rather, to wonder if there might be a superior being out there (up there?) somewhere with an interest in golf. Otherwise, how to explain what Barclays have done to deserve the fact that their three prestigious golf tournaments in 2011 - in Scotland, the United States and Singapore - were so severely affected by the weather that they all had to be shortened to 54 holes? I mean, instead of all those bonuses they've drawn in the past, perhaps some of the lolly could have gone on researching some climate-control device?

January 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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