x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

History-making Luke Donald targets a raid on golf's grand slam

With one spot in the record book assured, the world No 1 said he believes he can make even more golfing history by becoming the first player to win all four majors in a calendar year.

Luke Donald, the world No 1, became the first man to top the rankings on both the European and US tours yesterday with his third-place finish at the Dubai World Championship.
Luke Donald, the world No 1, became the first man to top the rankings on both the European and US tours yesterday with his third-place finish at the Dubai World Championship.

DUBAI // With one spot in the record book assured, Luke Donald said yesterday he believes he can make even more golfing history by becoming the first player to win all four majors in a calendar year.

While this may seem a strange boast from someone who has failed to take even one of the game's big four, the way he secured the Race to Dubai title yesterday would seem to indicate almost anything is within his grasp.

Donald shot a blemish free 66 to finish third overall at the Dubai World Championship and end the 2011 season with an unprecedented treble: top money-winner on both the European and PGA tours, and the world No 1 ranking.

It was enough to steal the spotlight from Spain's Alvaro Quiros, who created some history of his own by becoming the first man to win three different events in the Middle East when he clinched the tournament by two strokes from Paul Lawrie of Scotland.

But while this was the biggest win of his career for Quiros, it was clear Donald is the man of the moment.

He indicated he is already thinking about the first major of 2012, the Masters in April.

"I would love to win one major championship, but I guess the grand slam would be the ultimate thing when it's done in a calendar year," Donald said.

"I definitely think it is possible, even if nobody else has done it before."

Tiger Woods did hold all four major titles after winning the Masters in 2001, but not all the titles came in the same year.

At that time Woods was the undisputed best golfer in the world, and now it is Donald's turn to enjoy that mantle.

"This is what I wanted. It [winning both money lists] was something that became possible midway through the year," said Donald, who collected a total of €5,323,400 (Dh26m) from the Race to Dubai.

"I feel like there is a weight off my shoulders. When I saw that Rory [McIlroy] wasn't on the leader boards when I got to the 13th hole, I then realised he wasn't going to win the race and I cruised home."

Quiros certainly did not cruise to his title, which sits nicely with his 2009 Qatar Masters and this year's Dubai Desert Classic win. He was pushed hard all the way by Lawrie, who enjoyed his best four days on a golf course since he won his only major title 12 years ago at the British Open.

The tournament title came down to the final pairing on the final hole.

Donald was the clubhouse leader at 16-under par, but Quiros, who was 17 under, found the green of the par-five in two and Lawrie, one shot further back, had a 12-foot birdie putt.

The Spaniard settled it all by holing an eagle putt, which he described as "perfect" and "genius". Few who watched his ball roll up the hill, break left and drop in the cup having travelled 40 feet would disagree. He ended with a round of 67 and a winning score of 19-under par.

"I feel really good," said Quiros, whose winner's cheque of €922,645 will take him from 52nd in the world rankings into the top 20.

"From the beginning, Paul was holing everything and was just one behind me at the 18th, and I could hear the roars from the course that meant Luke had birdied the last two holes, so I knew I had to play the final hole well.

"I hit a great three wood for my second shot which made the green and then I got my putt. It was perfect, genius. Paul was in a good position so I just had to go for it."

Lawrie was disappointed and delighted in equal measure by his second-place finish, which won him €833,330 and saw him jump from 56th to 18th on the final Race to Dubai standings.

"I had my chances but credit to Alvaro. Anyone who eagles the last hole in a championship deserves to win," he said.

ncameron@thenational.ae