Never mind Phil Mickelson, never mind Tiger Woods even. Britain's Luke Donald has the best short-game in the world. That is the verdict from Martin Kaymer, the man who just happens to be rated as the game's best overall player.
Kaymer, the German who was yesterday confirmed as the new world No 1, witnessed Donald's mastery around the greens at close hand when losing on Sunday at the Accenture World Match Play.
“Luke probably does have the best short-game in the world,“ said Kaymer, who ended Lee Westwood's 17-week reign by dint of reaching the final in Tucson. “I've played with Phil a few times and he is unbelievable. But what Luke is doing at the moment is a joke. Wherever he is, you know that he will make the up-and-down - if he doesn't hole it. It is very impressive and shows me the improvements I have to make.”
The stats back up Kaymer. In the 89 holes he played on the 7,800-yard layout - the longest on the PGA Tour - Donald posted 32 birdies and one-putted a remarkable 46 times. It presented the Englishman with his first win in America for five years and, for the first time, catapulted him into the world's top three. With the Ulsterman Graeme McDowell immediately behind Donald, Europe can boast the world's top four for the first time in almost two decades.
For Donald, this success was vindication for those critics who said a/ he was not long enough and b/ was not hungry enough. “I think unfairly at times, I've been depicted as someone who is very happy contending and picking up cheques, but doesn't really care about winning,“ said the 33-year-old. “And that's as far away from the truth as it can be.”
He added: “No 9 to No 3 seems like a reasonably big jump, but I feel I'm good enough to be No 3. I guess popular opinion would not agree just because of the fact that I haven't won that much. But there's a lot be to said for consistency.”
Donald cannot be accused of being inconsistent. In the last 12 months he has recorded 11 top-threes and in this period has won more money than any other golfer in the world. But despite last May's victory in Madrid, Donald was clearly desperate for more US silverware. He talked afterwards of “getting a monkey off my back” and went on to speculate about what his first WGC title - and England's second after Ian Poulter's glory in the same event last year - might mean to what has been, at times, a frustrating career.
“The most disappointing thing about last season was I didn't really contend in a major, I didn't give myself a chance,“ said Donald. “Hopefully this added confidence will just give me that little bit extra to compete and even pick up a major.”
For now, the objective is to move up the rankings and a follow-up win in this week's Honda Classic - ironically the American event he had previously last won - would see him close to within touching distance of Kaymer. The German is not playing in Florida, but Westwood is and could make an instant return to No 1. But with six Europeans in the world' top eight and with five of them hailing from the United Kingdom the potential for further glory stretches far beyond this week.