All three have a legitimate claim to win the Golfer of the Year award, writes Mark Garrod.
Tough to split McDowell, McIlroy and Donald
The end of the year is nigh - and that means deciding who is Europe's Golfer of the Year.
Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is close, and then there was 2010 when the panel could not split Graeme McDowell, the US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero, and Martin Kaymer, the USPGA champion and European No 1 and made them the first joint winners since the award was introduced in 1985.
Yet, if anything, 2011 will be even harder to judge. This time there are three outstanding candidates, not two.
When Rory McIlroy came back from his Masters meltdown to become the youngest US Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923, it was hard to imagine the award going to anybody else.
But just a month later Darren Clarke won the British Open 20 years after he first played in it, 10 years since his last top-10 finish in any major and five years after the loss of his wife to breast cancer.
A 22 year old demolishing the field against a 42 year old achieving a lifelong dream. Tough call, but then Luke Donald, the world No 1, threw himself into the mix.
No European had won the PGA Tour money list in America, let alone topped the standings on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season, but Donald took the US crown and only McIlroy can pip him for the European title.
Which of them will win, though? The head says McIlroy, the heart says Clarke, and what is wrong with going with the heart?
* Press Association