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Luke Donald, who has an outside chance of winning the Dubai World Championship, has had to endure several lean years, which the world’s top-ranked player has described as ‘frustrating’.
Luke Donald, who has an outside chance of winning the Dubai World Championship, has had to endure several lean years, which the world’s top-ranked player has described as ‘frustrating’.

Luke Donald within 18 holes of achieving a double delight

The 34-year-old world No 1 is set to make history in Dubai today, as no player has won both Order of Merits before.

DUBAI // Luke Donald is almost certain to achieve golfing immortality on Sunday by finishing the year top of both American and European money lists, and could even yet win the Dubai World Championship as he sits just four shots behind leader Alvaro Quiros going into the final round.

The 34-year-old world No 1, who starts on Sunday in fourth place at this season-ending tournament, gave a masterclass on Saturday as he shot a six-under-par 66 for a total of ten under, and seemingly nothing now is going to stop him from making history as the first player to win the two Order of Merits in the same year.

Rory McIlroy needed to win this week (and Donald finish outside the top nine) to put a spanner in the works; he is tied-eighth at eight under, six off the lead, after a 71, and has all but conceded the Race to Dubai title to his rival.

Barring an amazing turnaround, on Sunday will be nothing less than a lap of honour for Donald, even if he tried to convince everyone that nothing had been won yet.

"If it all works out, then it's a pretty amazing feat," said Donald who produced six birdies on Saturday.

"I look at all the awards and accomplishments from this year, and then to win both money lists is a bit of history.

"You hope for a year like this, but doing it and believing it are totally different. I had some lean years for a while when I wasn't winning and it did get frustrating."

The stalwart of Europe's Ryder Cup team has won four times in 2011: the WGC World Match Play Championship, Scottish Open, BMW PGA Championship and Children's Miracle Network Hospital's Classic at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida that secured him the PGA Order of Merit title.

Even though he only needed a top-nine finish here in Dubai, Donald said he has still felt nervous, which he equated to trying to get his European Tour card ten years ago at Qualifying School, because there is so much at stake.

"The implications came into my mind now and then," he said. "There were definitely times where I've been on putts and my mind wandered a little bit, but you've got to step back, shut it out and focus."

The Race to Dubai was all but decided on Saturday when, at the seventh hole, McIlroy lost his ball with a wayward second that found a bush. He got a penalty drop and made a hash of his chip that skimmed over the green. That ended with two dropped shots, to go along with his bogey on the third.

At almost the same moment, Donald walked off the eighth green having picked up a fourth shot of the day after another superb approach was followed by a six-foot putt, and all of a sudden he was four ahead of the only man who could catch him.

McIlroy fought back and did finish one under for his round - he went out in 39 and back in 32 - but conceded that his two-man race with Donald was now over.

"I fully expect Luke to go out and again shoot something similar to what he did today," he said.

"He deserves it. He's played great all year and to win the money list in the States in the fashion he did, and to then come over here and wrap it up, is amazing. I hope Luke now gets the recognition he deserves. He's not been given the credit for how good his golf has been."

Donald will now turn his attention to the one thing missing from his CV; a major championship.

"Padraig Harrington has been a role model for me," he said. "He had so many seconds in his career, but stayed patient and won three majors in two years. You just have to keep believing that, at some point, it's going to be your time."

ncameron@thenational.ae

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