Duel in Dubai! McIlroy and Donald set for Sunday showdown on European Tour season finale
15:39 GMT, 24 November 2012
It is hard to think of a more fitting climax to this fabulous golfing year than the two best players in the world going head-to-head in the final group of the final event, the DP World Tour Championship.
For No 1 Rory McIlroy, it is the chance to put yet more gloss on a season that has seen him win the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic and claim his second major, the USPGA Championship, in record-breaking fashion.
For Luke Donald, it is an opportunity to close the gap at the top and claim an impressive fourth title for the second consecutive season.
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DP World Tour Championship
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The odds favour McIlroy. Not only is
he the better player but, with its extravagant length and considerable
carries, this course offers a considerable advantage to anyone who can
hit it miles off the tee – and McIlroy can outdrive Donald by up to 75
But don’t rule out the stylish Englishman, who completed one incredible feat on Saturday and is closing in on another.
Donald, if you can believe this, has
now played 100 holes on this Earth Course measuring over 7,500 yards
without a single bogey.
The fabulous ton is made up of 68 pars and 32 birdies.
He finished last year’s tournament
with three 66s and has followed it here with rounds of 65, 69 and 66 to
tie McIlroy on 17 under par.
f Donald goes bogey-free on Sunday,
he will also become the first man to complete a European Tour event
without a blemish since the Swede Jesper Parnevik won the Scandinavian
Masters in 1995.
Just to emphasise its rarity, no man in America has played 72 holes without a bogey since Lee Trevino won in Tampa in 1974.
The future's bright: Luke Donald has been in superb form at the DP World Tour Championship
‘I guess that’s my game, to keep the ball in play and then, when I make mistakes, I save myself with a pretty good short game,’ said Donald.
‘It is still a statistic of which I am very proud. I think my previous longest run would probably be about 40 or 50 holes, so that puts it in perspective.’
On Saturday, as ever, the two men shot 66 in vastly different ways. Donald, dressed in a luminous orange shirt – ‘if you’re going to dress like an Easyjet pilot you better play well,’ he joked – made most of his gains on the front nine and closed with a trademark pitch and 4ft putt at the 18th.
There was a moment of good humour as he called in his caddie John McLean, who was standing about 20 yards away, and asked for help in reading the short putt.
As the excited Mclean pulled alongside him, Donald broke into a broad smile and said: ’No, you’re ok, I’ve got this.’
McIlroy had a slow start for the second day running, perhaps because he was still feeling a little under the weather.
‘I think the adrenaline got me through,’ he said.
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There was certainly some adrenaline on show at the 12th. Here he hit such a long drive he had just a sand wedge for his approach. Donald, by contrast, was hitting a six iron.
But, as McIlroy acknowledged: ’It is one thing having such an advantage but you have to make use of it otherwise it can work the other way, and you start getting frustrated.’
As for Sunday’s duel, neither man tried to hide their excitement nor lessen its importance.
Said McIlroy: ‘I know I am going into next year as world No 1 and that’s great, but I badly want to win here and to do it playing with the world No 2 would certainly put an exclamation point on the season.’
onald believes he has the chance to gain psychological brownie points.
‘Anytime you go head-to-head against the best player in the world and win, you’re going to feel good about your game,’ said the 34 year old.
‘Up to last week it had been a solid season but if I follow up my win in Japan with a win here against Rory I’d have to rank it as a very good year.’
All to play for on Sunday, then. Oh, and good luck to South African’s gifted major winners, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
They start three behind and are desperate to prove this is not how it appears – a two-man show.