Luke Donald yesterday allayed suspicions he would put his clubs away for the rest of the year when committing himself to play at Sun City next week. The world No 1 has not played for five weeks and in this time has experienced the death of his father and birth of his second daughter.
With the European Order of Merit all but secured, some believed Donald would be tempted to call an end to his season. But South African officials confirmed the Englishman has given assurances he will appear at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Lee Westwood, the world No 3, is in the field as is the No 4, Martin Kaymer.
The Dubai World Championship follows the week after, where, barring a remarkable surge from Rory McIlroy, Donald will be confirmed as the first player in history to win the European and US money lists in the same season.
Despite the ultimate roller coaster of emotions, which saw his father, Colin, suddenly pass and then, four days later, the arrival of Sophia, Donald feels strong enough to compete. On Thursday night he tweeted: "The last few weeks have opened my eyes to how thankful I am for everything in my life."
McIlroy requires to win next week in Hong Kong, the European Tour event which runs concurrently with the Sun City spectacular, then again in Dubai, while hoping Donald performs nowhere near his recent consistency in the season finale. But first the 22-year-old has the World Cup in his sights.
Alongside Graeme McDowell, the Irishman tees off in the fourballs this morning sharing the lead with Australia. Brendan Jones and Richard Green held a two-shot advantage after the opening day, but a 68 from McIlroy and McDowell in the foursomes yesterday bridged the gap as they try to emulate the success of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997.
McIlroy and McDowell made six birdies offset by two bogeys to reach 13-under, whereas the Australians conjured an eagle and three birdies. "Both of us are very pleased about the score we ended up shooting today," said McIlroy.
The Scottish pair of Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher sat one shot back in third, while England (Ian Poulter and Justin Rose) were three further back.