Dubai: Current world number one Luke Donald has already won the plaudits ahead of this weekend's Dubai World Championship, five days before even confirming his status as the first golfer to claim both US PGA and European Tour Order of Merits in the same year.
Fellow golfers were in awe of the 33-year-old Englishman, who broke the world number one spot in May, as they spoke to press yesterday.
Having confirmed the PGA Tour money-list title with victory at the Disney Classic in October, Donald now only needs to see off a late challenge from Rory McIlroy at this weekend's Dubai World Championship in order to win Europe's Order of Merit.
McIlroy is ¤789,788.60 (Dh3,894,780) behind Donald in the Race to Dubai, with the winner of the Dubai World Championship due to pocket a neat ¤922,645. To prevent Donald from doing a historic double, McIlroy must win and hope that the man from Hemel Hempstead finishes outside the top nine. A tough ask given that he only finished outside top ten four times in the US PGA this season and three times on the Europe Tour. In total that's seven from 29 outings.
McIlroy said: "I think he's [Donald] always had a great short game, and he always holes the putts that he should. But I think one of the reasons he's played so well this year is his driving has improved a lot. His driving accuracy, he's never been longest off the tee, but he's starting to hit the ball in the fairway more, and set himself up. He's got such a great iron game, if he hits it in the fairway, he's going to have plenty of chances for birdies."
Lee Westwood said of the double merit feat: "We play so many co-sanctioned events now that there are events that count on both money lists; it's more possible now [to do the double] than it's ever been. Why he's likely to win both money lists, it's because of the consistency he's shown all year. He's had a very, very consistent year and deserves to be world number one at the end of it."
Germany's Martin Kaymer, who won last year's Race to Dubai, despite a late surge from Graeme McDowell, said: "I don't believe that Luke will have a bad week. The way he's played golf the last few months, I don't know whether he's ever finished outside the top ten. It will be very difficult for Rory, but I'm sure he will be aggressive and try to do everything to win, and then that puts a little bit of pressure on Luke for the weekend. The way he's played this year he deserves to be number one in the world and I hope for him that he will win here this week, because that is what he deserves."
Westwood added: "I think anybody who enjoys golf and enjoys watching golf likes to see the season-ending event go right to the wire. You don't want a foregone conclusion. It's nice to see two people battling it out where somebody could have a putt to win both Order of Merits."