x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Being world No 1 in golf is not everything for Luke Donald

Ousted from the top perch after 40 weeks, the Briton is relaxed on being replaced by Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy, right, replaced Luke Donald, left, to become the fourth world No 1 in 16 months.
Rory McIlroy, right, replaced Luke Donald, left, to become the fourth world No 1 in 16 months.

Don't get the idea that Luke Donald was camped out in front of his television for the final hour of the Honda Classic last weekend, waiting to see if Rory McIlroy would win and replace him as the No 1 golfer in the world.

"I was actually with my daughters at the playground," Donald said this week in Doral, Florida.

Donald held the No 1 spot for 40 weeks, the longest of anyone in the last 15 years except for Tiger Woods. Sunday was the 49th time the No 1 ranking had traded hands, and only 10 players had a longer stay at the top than Donald.

The record belongs to Woods at 281 weeks. Donald's first thought about seeing that McIlroy had won and moved into the top spot was that he now had room for improvement.

"It's hard to go very far when you're No 1," Donald said. "But no, I didn't give it too much thought. That's what happens.

"I've had a little bit of a slow start. Rory has played well and deservedly overtook me. I've never really questioned the world ranking system.

"It's an unbiased, mathematical system, and he's done enough to get to No 1."

Donald and Lee Westwood, whom Donald supplanted at No 1 last May, could return to the top this week at Doral, though that could depend on how McIlroy fares.

Westwood said he was talking to Donald on the putting green as they prepared for this week's World Golf Championship event at Doral. He greeted Donald by calling him "No 2".

"He looked at me and nodded and he said, 'Yeah, it's sort of a bit of a relief. There's only one way to go when you're No 1,'" Westwood said.

"At least there's more than one way to go at No 2. You're at the top there and everybody shoots at you. But I think that's the position you want to be in. You want the position everyone is envious of."

McIlroy became the fourth player in 16 months to be No 1, and it has changed hands five times since Woods's reign ended in November 2010. "I think it adds a little bit of interest," Donald said.

"When Tiger was No 1, no one really talked about the world rankings much, and maybe the big talking point was who was in the top 50."