Sport | Golf

Donald hopes to prove critics wrong

Underrated Englishman who dethroned McIlroy reminds people of his two money titles

  • By Oliver Brown
  • Published: 00:00 March 21, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Luke Donald of England during the final round of the Transitions Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida, on Sunday.

Palm Harbor, Florida: Luke Donald performed an exuberant upper cut as he watched his six-footer for victory dive into the left side of the cup. It was an apt, if uncharacteristic, gesture from a man who had not merely sealed his win at the Transitions Championship, but also guaranteed that he would head to the Masters restored as the world No 1.

The reign of Rory McIlroy, whom he displaced at the summit by his triumph in Tampa, had lasted only two weeks. Donald, having endured a frustrating start to the season in the young Ulsterman's shadow, could not disguise his satisfaction.

"I certainly wasn't in the media at all," he said, suggesting that his accomplishment in winning money lists on both sides of the Atlantic had been too swiftly forgotten. "I don't think many people thought I could do that all over again this year. I hope I can prove them wrong."

This maiden win of 2012 was an emphatic statement, as he surged up the Transitions leaderboard with a closing 66. For all his understated, meticulous air, Donald's resilience under pressure ought not to be overlooked. He beat Webb Simpson to last year's PGA Tour order of merit title with a back nine of consummate brilliance in the final event at Disneyland, and on Sunday night he managed to bolt from the pack once more.

How Donald hopes that this wave can yet crest at Augusta in a fortnight's time. He experienced a memorable Masters Sunday 12 months ago, pumping his fist when he chipped in at the last to finish in a tie for fourth.

Masters confrontation

His to-and-fro battle with McIlroy for the No 1 spot lends added piquancy to the pair's Masters confrontation. The US Open champion, who unravelled so spectacularly at Augusta last time but ended Donald's nine-month stay atop the rankings by winning this month's Honda Classic, was quick to offer congratulations. "Impressive performance," he said on Twitter. "I enjoyed it while it lasted."

Donald, referring to McIlroy's attendance last week at President Obama's state banquet for the David Cameron, replied: "Thanks. You know anyone at the White House who could get me an invite?"

It helps that these British rivals remain such close friends. Indeed, they will spend part of the next two weeks practising together at The Bear's Club in West Palm Beach. Donald, at 34, is mindful of McIlroy's resolve to keep him honest in their tussle for recognition as golf's alpha male. "I'm sure that he got a taste of the view and that he will want more of it," he said. "He's a great player and there's a lot of excitement going on. It's nice to have a little back and forth."

Donald toiled in the first phase of this season but the past nine days have confirmed that the all-conquering golfer has not disappeared from view. "It's a funny game. It does come and go. After the slow start, there are some doubts — they do creep in. But I knew that the hard work would pay off. Obviously, it's starting to show."

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2012

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