Donald driven to top money list on both sides of the Atlantic
So much for the notion that it's all about majors and only about majors. Luke Donald is one professional golfer who affords the money list ultimate respect. And as world No 1 his pursuit of both the American and European titles promises to lend this end of season much-needed significance.
How far is Donald prepared to go to achieve an unprecedented feat? Well, not only did he rush away from the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sunday to play first in the Dunhill Links Championship which begins here today, and then next week in Madrid, but he is also considering playing in Florida while his heavily pregnant wife awaits their second baby in Chicago. Donald evidently sees plenty of merit topping both orders and is determined to leave nothing to chance.
Certainly he does not believe the Race To Dubai is in the bag, despite holding a £1.4m lead over Rory McIlroy. "I know Luke doesn't believe he is out of sight yet as I had breakfast with him this morning," said the world No 2, Lee Westwood, who fancies his own chances of lifting a third Harry Vardon Trophy. "He wouldn't be here if he thought he was out of sight. I feel I can win here, [the WGC HSBC Championship] in Shanghai and [the Dubai World Championship] in Dubai – that will surely give me enough to go past him."
McIlroy is another who, with a run of "Ws", could perform some extremely lucrative leapfrogging. "It's possible," said the 22-year-old. As he said it the sun beamed across St Andrews Bay and mission possible seemed even more alluring. The last time McIlroy staggered off a links he informed a stunned throng at the Open that the windy conditions had not suited him and he would just have to wait until the links were calm. Guess what? They are flat calm, with the forecast as benign for the whole four days.
There will be the obligatory shower but the three courses being employed in this enormous pro-am (336 teeing it up) are in danger of seeing their bark reduced to a squeak and their bite become a tickle. The Old Course, Kingsbarns and even nasty old Carnoustie should prepare for a bashing. "Looking back, it wasn't the right thing to say at Sandwich – if you want to be a great golfer you have to play well in all conditions," said McIlroy. "But it would be great if the weather stays like this all week."
Wouldn't it just. "Golfing heaven," seems an understatement when the Fife coast is lit up in this sparkling fashion. And even the amateurs looked relaxed when they set out for their final practice rounds here at the Home of Golf. Of all the partnerships, perhaps it is that of John Daly and Sir Ian Botham which leaps off the starting sheet. Beefy and the Wild Thing will be formidable; off the course if not on it. "A great draw," said Botham "Great entertainment."
Nevertheless, the real golf fans will keep their focus on Kingsbarns where the heavyweights tee off today. Donald is a close friend of his partner, Jamie Redknapp, but will have his match-head on. He will need to, as with Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer joining the game's top three this is a high-class field regardless of the likes of Michael Douglas, Hugh Grant and Chris Evans sharing the fairways.
"There's a great purse [over £500,000 to the winner] and five of the world's top six," said Donald. "There's a lot to play for. Nobody has ever been a member of both Tours and won both money lists and you always try to accomplish things nobody has done before. That's why I will keep an eye on what everybody is doing."
Indeed, if Webb Simpson decides to keep going and play in the lesser American "Fall Series" to make up the near £45,000 deficit, Donald might rip up his schedule to play in the PGA Tour's final event, the appropriately named Children's Miracle Classic on 20 October. That happens to be just two weeks before Diane is due. "It's at Disney World so I could take my daughter [20-month-old-old, Elle]," said Donald. "But with my wife due I'll have to discuss it with her as well." Probably best.
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