Tuesday 21 January 2020

Luke Donald: Dubai would be my biggest accomplishment but McIlroy has more talent even than Tiger

Mark Garrod

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 that anybody he has ever competed against, including Tiger Woods - for the European Tour crown, the world number one will be able to dedicate it to his late father.

"If it works out on Sunday it will be my biggest accomplishment," said Donald today as he prepared to defend a lead of more than €790,000 over McIlroy at the Dubai World Championship.

First prize is €921,000 so even if Northern Ireland's young US Open champion, his only remaining challenger for the title, 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 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 £230,000.

He had to finish first or second just to have a chance of taking the number one spot 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 the American falling back, an inward 30 made him 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 actually did it six times, but never played enough European events to be included on the table.

"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 Hong Kong Open on Sunday to keep the race very much alive.

While that was happening Donald was finishing only 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," he 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 - Justin Rose and Fredrik Jacobson are not playing - playing in reverse money list order in the first round, Donald and McIlroy tee off last at 12.30pm local time.

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.

"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.

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