Tag Archives: donald

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Tiger Woods tops world rankings after Arnold Palmer Invitational win

Tiger back on top of the world after victory march at Arnold Palmer Invitational

: Returns to top 10 with victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

June 3, 2012: Returns to top five with win in the Memorial Tournament

2013: Closes gap on leader Rory McIlroy with early-season wins at Farmers Insurance Open and WGC-Cadillac Championship.

March 25, 2013: Returns to number one spot by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods has also won the Farmers Insurance Open and the Cadillac Championship this year as he prepares for next month's Masters.

The 37-year-old, who announced he was in a relationship with skier Lindsey Vonn last week, is the bookies' favourite for Augusta as he bids to win the Green Jacket for a fifth time.

Rickie Fowler was Tiger's playing partner for the final round but his challenge hit the buffers when he put two in the water at the 16th.

More to follow…

The one to watch: The 14-time major champion Woods had plenty of support in Orlando

The one to watch: The 14-time major champion Woods had plenty of support in Orlando

Taste for success: Tiger, with caddie Joe LaCava, has a quick bite to eat as he walks up the sixth fairway

Taste for success: Tiger, with caddie Joe LaCava, has a quick bite to eat as he walks up the sixth fairway

Keeping it interesting: Woods had the odd wobble on the tee but he was able to recover

Keeping it interesting: Woods had the odd wobble on the tee but he was able to recover

Gave it a go: Rickie Fowler was Woods' playing partner for the final round at Bay Hill

Gave it a go: Rickie Fowler was Woods' playing partner for the final round at Bay Hill

THE WORLD No 1s SINCE WOODS

Tiger Woods was world No 1 for 281 weeks in a row between June 12, 2005 and October 30, 2010.

Since then four different players have held top spot:

LEE WESTWOOD (17 weeks)
October 31, 2010 to February 26, 2011

MARTIN KAYMER (Eight weeks)
February 27 to April 23, 2011

WESTWOOD (Five weeks)
April 24, 2011 to May 28, 2011

LUKE DONALD (40 weeks)
May 29, 2011 to March 3, 2012

RORY McILROY (Two weeks)
March 4 to 17, 2012

DONALD (Four weeks)
March 18 to April 14, 2012

McILROY (Two weeks)
April 15 to 28, 2012

DONALD (One week)
April 29 to May 5, 2012

McILROY (Three weeks)
May 6 to 26, 2012

DONALD (11 weeks)
May 27 to August 11, 2012

McILROY (32 weeks)
Aug 12, 2012 to Mar 25 2013

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Luke Donald misses the cut in Malaysian Open

Donald loses proud record as his Masters build-up takes knock in Malaysia

By
Derek Lawrenson

PUBLISHED:

11:49 GMT, 23 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:49 GMT, 23 March 2013

Poor form: Luke Donald missed the cut in Malaysia

Poor form: Luke Donald missed the cut in Malaysia

They were playing in tournaments thousands of miles apart, but Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson headed home united by one common thought: with the Masters less than three weeks away, they have plenty of work to do.

Donald crashed out of the Malaysian Open at the halfway stage on Saturday to spoil one of the things he was most proud about in his career.

It was the first time he had ever missed a halfway cut in a European Tour event.

'I guess all good runs come to an end eventually, but I'm hugely disappointed,' he said.

Mickelson looked positively shattered after running up a horrific 79 in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

'I just played terribly,' he said. Only three times in his last 12 Masters appearances has the three-time champion finished outside the top five, but the gifted lefty sounded like a man who did not expect to keep that remarkable run going.

He also had a dig at the PGA Tour for changing the schedule this year. Instead of the Houston Open – a tournament Mickelson loves – being the event before the Masters, it will be the Texas Open.

'Personally, I like playing on a course the week before that's similar, but the Texas Open layout is tight and it's windy, and that's not conducive to getting ready for Augusta,' he said.

'That makes it difficult for me. I find when I take a week off I come out and play like I did here – not mentally sharp. That's not good at the Masters, where you have to be sharp out of the gate.'

Donald's first missed cut on the European Tour came in his 119th start, stretching back a decade, and followed poor rounds of 74 and 73 to fall short by three shots as he struggled to read the slow greens at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

'I've got two weeks at home now and I'm going to have to be diligent in my Masters preparation,' he said.

Two up: Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand claimed a two shot lead in the second round

Two up: Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand claimed a two shot lead in the second round

Leaderboard

Click here for the latest standings

'It's true we've all seen players
who are seemingly out of form go and have a good week at the Masters,
but I need my scoring clubs – from 100 yards and in – to be better than
they have been.'

Meanwhile, as the third round of the
Arnold Palmer Invitational got underway at Bay Hill yesterday, Lee
Westwood did not improve his position among the back markers with a 72,
while Graeme McDowell is almost propping up the field after a 75.

One of the best early moves came from
Scot Martin Laird, a former winner of this event, who shot 68 to leap
up 35 places into the top 40.

Englishman Justin Rose began his third round tied for the lead with American Bill Haas, while Tiger Woods was four back.

Here in style: Charl Schwartzel of South Africa arrives in a helicopter on Saturday

Here in style: Charl Schwartzel of South Africa arrives in a helicopter on Saturday

Canada's Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, withdrew with a rib injury.

Weir, who was looking forward to
celebrating the 10th anniversary of his only major win at Augusta next
month, walked off the Bay Hill course after going four over through 11
holes.

Playing on a career money earnings
exemption after three barren injury-plagued seasons, Weir had begun to
show signs of turning his game around after making the cut for only the
fifth time in a PGA Tour event over the past three years.

Three of those have been this season, with a best finish of tied 50th at Pebble Beach.

'I'm feeling closer,' he said after his opening round on Thursday.

'It's not easy, but it's part of the game. I want to compete and that makes the hard work easier. I still love the game.'

Weir had been scheduled to play the Houston Open next week in his final competitive tune-up before the year's first major.

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Luke Donald two shots behind leaders at the halfway stage of the Northern Trust Open

Donald remains in the hunt in California after rising to fifth at halfway stage of Northern Trust Open

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

07:22 GMT, 16 February 2013

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UPDATED:

11:27 GMT, 16 February 2013

World No 3 Luke Donald put himself firmly in contention as Bae Sang-moon and Fredrik Jacobson shared the lead at the halfway stage of the Northern Trust Open in California.

England's Donald, playing his first tournament since November, produced a five-under 66 to sit seven under overall, two off the leading pair of South Korea's Bae and Sweden's Jacobson on nine under.

Donald, 18th overnight, carded seven birdies against two bogeys to end day two fifth – and he could have been in a share of third alongside Americans John Merrick and John Rollins but for a dropped shot on his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth.

Climbing the leaderboard: Luke Donald hit five under par to rise to seventh

Climbing the leaderboard: Luke Donald hit five under par to rise to seventh

NORTHERN TRUST OPEN

Click here for the latest leaderboard

Donald told www.pgatour.com: 'Happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break, you never know with how you're going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball striking wise and my short game has been very sharp.

'I've been excited about that. It's been a big key to my score so far, and, yeah, excited to be in the mix again.'

On the top of the pile though were Jacobson and Bae, both of whom were six under for the day to climb from sixth to joint first.

Surveying the scene: Donald and his caddie John McLaren walks up to the sixth green

Surveying the scene: Donald and his caddie John McLaren walks up to the sixth green

For Jacobson it was a continuation of the form which saw him finish seventh at Pebble Beach last week.

'Obviously I take a lot out of that, just being in contention again,' Jacobson said. 'I've had some good practice sessions before, but to bring it on the course and play under pressure, that's what it's about.'

There was no room to relax, though, with a number of notable names on the heels of the top five.

Leading the way: Fredrik Jacobson shares the lead at the halfway stage

Leading the way: Fredrik Jacobson shares the lead at the halfway stage

World No 8 Lee Westwood headed up a group of three players on six under, which also included major winners Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson.

Overnight leader Matt Kuchar was among the players on five under having carded a two-over 73, as was defending champion Bill Haas, while Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were all four under.

Out in front: Sang-Moon Bae is going well in California

Out in front: Sang-Moon Bae is going well in California

Among the remainder of the British contingent, Brian Davis (three under), Greg Owen (two under), David Lynn (one under) and Ross Fisher (one over) all made the cut, but Martin Laird and Graeme McDowell missed out.

Other big names to miss the cut included Dustin Johnson, Padraig Harrington, Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy, Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover.

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Rory McIlroy still backing Paul McGinley over Colin Montgomerie for Ryder Cup capatin

Forget Monty, McGinley is the man! McIlroy still backing Irishman for Ryder Cup captain

By
Derek Lawrenson

PUBLISHED:

08:35 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:06 GMT, 15 January 2013

Rory McIlroy ramped up the
pressure on Europe’s Tournament Players’ Committee on Tuesday by
repeating his insistence that Paul McGinley had to be the next Ryder Cup
captain.

The 15-man committee meet on Tuesday
night to nominate the successor to Jose Maria Olazabal and speculation
has grown in recent days that Colin Montgomerie, the skipper at Celtic
Manor in 2010, might get the nod for a second term at Gleneagles next
year.

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Backing: Rory McIlroy wants Paul McGinley to captain the European team at the 2014 Ryder Cup

Backing: Rory McIlroy wants Paul McGinley to captain the European team at the 2014 Ryder Cup

In the money: McIlroy was unveiled as Nike's latest big-name signing in Abu Dhabi

In the money: McIlroy was unveiled as Nike's latest big-name signing in Abu Dhabi

‘I have a very strong opinion about
this and I’d be disappointed if it was Monty,’ said McIlroy.

‘I firmly
believe that captaincy should be a one-time thing. I first played under
Paul at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and he is the best captain I have played
under, and deserves his chance. His attention to detail his second to
none and he is also very inspirational.’

McIlroy believes that the voice of the players who worked their miracle at Medinah last year ought to be heard.

‘When you have myself, and Poults
(Ian Poulter), Luke (Donald) and several others all saying the same thing,
I’d like to think our opinion is valid,’ he said.

Next in line Paul McGinley

Take two: Colin Montgomerie could return

Decision: Paul McGinley (left) is tipped to lead Europe but Colin Montgomerie could be back for a second term

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Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and the best Ryder Cup of all time! Golf"s great year remembered – Derek Lawrenson

What a year! Magnificent McIlroy, Donald, Rose, Poulter… and the best Ryder Cup ever

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 10 December 2012

Right from the first tournament in Abu Dhabi in January, this was a golfing year to remember, with each month providing a highlight reel. As the curtain comes down, here are my favourite moments of a season to savour.

January – Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi

Not only Rocky by name but, for one tournament at least, Rocky by nature. A former club pro who rises through the ranks to beat the greatest player of his generation — Hollywood would be interested if the franchise hadn’t already been taken. Here, Rocky wrote a script on which he will dine out for years to come.

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

David and Goliath: Robert Rock (left) is congratulated by Tiger Woods on his victory in Abu Dhabi

February – Paul Lawrie in Qatar

An unlikely revival that had begun in Dubai the previous December took wing in the Gulf as the Scot continued his remarkable rise from the nether regions to Europe’s Ryder Cup team. How nice to see that one of the game’s genuine guys is getting the credit this time round that was denied him following his 1999 Open win.

March – The UK's finest rule in Florida

I couldn’t tell you how many tournaments I've covered in the Sunshine State that have been won by Americans. It felt like I waited ages for the first UK success to come along. Then, in a manner characteristic of a Florida downpour, it started raining victories. First, Rory McIlroy beat Tiger in Fort Lauderdale. Then, Justin Rose won his first World Golf Championship in Miami. Not to be outdone, Luke Donald joined the party by winning the following week in Tampa. It was March madness of a glorious kind.

Justin Rose won at Doral

Luke Donald kisses the Transitions Championship trophy at Innisbrook

England's finest: Justin Rose won the WGC Cadillac at Doral (left) and Luke Donald took the glory at Innisbrook

April – Watson wins the Masters

Whoever imagined a man called Bubba would find himself wearing a green jacket No, it is not an urban myth that Bubba Watson has never had a lesson in his life. Working out the hardest sport all on his lonesome, Watson earned his ultimate reward at the season’s first major, moving a wedge 30 yards in the air on the first play-off hole and moving a nation in the process with his wonderful success.

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

The greatest shot ever played Bubba Watson's miraculous hooked wedge that helped seal the Masters title

May – Luke's successful PGA defence

It is never easy defending a title and particularly Europe’s flagship event on home soil. Was this really the same Luke Donald who used to find it so hard to win In front of an adoring record crowd at Wentworth, the classy Englishman made it appear relatively straightforward, with a vivid demonstration of how much he has grown.

June – Marvellous Royal Portrush

At an historic Irish Open, it might have rained almost from the first shot to the last, but it made no difference to the golf-mad people of this special corner of Northern Ireland. To watch them pouring through the entrance gates from first light was truly humbling. More than 130,000 people had attended by the time Welshman Jamie Donaldson holed the winning putt.

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

Great friends: Ernie Els commiserates Adam Scott after pipping his pal to the Claret Just at Lytham

July – Ernie Els's major comeback

Was there anyone who still believed big Ernie had another major victory in him Fortunately, the people who mattered kept faith. They rebuilt his shattered putting stroke and fractured confidence to lay the foundation for a most popular Open win. Credit, too, the dignified runner-up, Adam Scott, who took his late, late collapse at Royal Lytham & St Annes on the chin.

August – Rory at Kiawah Island

So much for fatal distractions and taking his eye off the ball. All those who doubted Rory McIlroy’s desire and ambition were forced to concede they were wrong following a momentous second major win for the 23-year-old, achieved in the grand manner, when a 20-foot holed putt on the final green allowed him to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record margin of victory. In that moment, every pro golfer wished that he was so distracted.

September – The FedEx Cup

Another eye-opener. This four-event series opened with Tiger and Rory playing together and kept us gripped through two McIlroy victories, right up to the moment Brandt Snedeker walked off with the mammoth $10million bonus and promptly announced he was giving much of it away to charity. A perfect warm-up to the year’s big event.

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

Major number two: Rory McIlroy holds aloft the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

September-October – The Miracle at Medinah

There are some who believe this to have been the greatest golf event of all time. What is undeniable is that it provided a lifetime of memories. An event that defined Ian Poulter as one of the sporting heroes of the age, where Rory’s timing was as good on the course as it was bad off it; where Bubba introduced us to the unforgettable sound of cheering on the first tee while golfers play their shots. If you were wearing European blue, this really was as good as it gets.

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

Miracle-worker: European talisman Ian Poulter celebrates after his remarkable performance at Medinah

November – Rory in Dubai

Ho-hum, not a bad month either. Poults took his Ryder Cup form to China and then became the first Englishman to win two WGC events. Luke made it three wins on three different continents with victory in Japan. And then came Rory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. How about five birdies in a row to finish the season and finish off Justin Rose, who had just shot 62 What a day in the Middle-Eastern sun — but then, what a season.

December – And the winner is… Rory

A year that began with him becoming world No 1 at the age of 22 is ending with Rory scooping up practically every golf award going. Thank goodness, he has reportedly settled on a $10m home in Florida, so he has somewhere to put all these trophies. The year is ending in a fitting manner, therefore, as the dawn of Rory’s era offers up the promise that it will provide many more special moments in the seasons to come.

Quote of the Year

‘Europe’s Ryder Cup qualification
system should now be changed. It should be nine automatic qualifiers,
two captain’s wildcards… and Ian Poulter. Call it the Poults
clause.’

Lee Westwood sums up the feeling of a
continent in the aftermath of a display from Poulter that surely ranks
as the greatest Ryder Cup performance of all time.

After 48 consecutive weeks, this column is taking a December break. Merry Christmas to you all… and we will be back on January 7.

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Rory McIlroy"s former rival Oliver Fisher misses out on US Tour

The sorry story of Rory's ex-rival: Fellow Brit Fisher misses out on US tour after final-hole bogey

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 4 December 2012

Sad story: Oliver Fisher won the Czech Open in 2011

Sad story: Oliver Fisher won the Czech Open in 2011

When Oliver Fisher and Rory McIlroy turned pro in successive years in 2006 and 2007, it appeared a close call as to which of the pin-ups of the amateur game would enjoy the more successful career.

What has happened in the space of 24 hours in America summed up how things transpired.

McIlroy was named the US Tour Player of the Year in a vote of his peers, while Fisher, in a valiant effort to get on the American circuit next year, bogeyed his final hole at qualifying school to miss out by a shot.

It was rough on the 24-year-old Londoner, who had birdied the previous three holes to give himself a chance.

Now Fisher has to decide whether he wants to play on the US Tour's reserve circuit, the Web.com Tour, and earn his privileges for the regular tour, or return to the European Tour.

With a trophy bearing his name and 2million in career earnings, Fisher is hardly a failure.

It just must feel like that every time he looks at his old amateur rival.

As for McIlroy, he became the youngest to be named Player of the Year since Tiger Woods in 1998, and the second European in a row to win following Luke Donald in 2011. 'It's always nice to be recognised by your peers, and particularly when you think who has won this award in the past,' said McIlroy.

Contrast: Rory McIlroy has gone on to greatness

Contrast: Rory McIlroy has gone on to greatness

After a few days in Aspen, Colorado with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, the 23-year-old has moved on to Boston, where he conducted a teleconference while being driven on the freeways.

In between losing him as he went through tunnels, he revealed that a more businesslike approach had paid full dividends these past 18 months, and acknowledged that Wozniacki's dedication to her sport had rubbed off on him.

'Seeing how hard she works definitely flipped a switch for me,' he admitted.

'I think after winning the US Open last year I realised that my career had gone up a level, and I needed to become a little more professional and businesslike.'

Opposites: McIlroy was named US Tour Player of the Year

Opposites: McIlroy was named US Tour Player of the Year

Meanwhile, as one Fisher was missing out at Q-school in California, another – Ross, no relation – was breezing through, finishing second behind South Korea's Lee Dong-hwan. Englishman Fisher, 32, saw his career nosedive last year after being part of the winning Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in 2010.

'This year has been a work in progress,' he said, referring to a couple of runner-up finishes in Europe. Fisher hits it long and high, and it would be no surprise to see him revive his career in America.

Also clutching a tour card is American Erik Compton, the bravest man in professional golf. He underwent two heart transplants before his 30th birthday, but nothing, it seems, will stop Compton, now 33, pursuing his dream.

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Rory McIlroy wins DP World Tour Championship

Double delight for McIlroy as Race to Dubai winner seals DP World Tour Championship

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UPDATED:

17:34 GMT, 25 November 2012

All week Rory McIlroy had talked about his determination to finish the season in grand style, but surely even he didn't dream of winning the DP World Tour Championship in such breathtaking fashion.

Dressed in Tiger red, what transpired on a stunning Sunday afternoon on the Earth Course was right up there with anything Tiger produced in his prime.

As expected, a wonderful battle unfolded between him and an Englishman.

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What a year: Rory McIlroy celebrates his DP World Tour Championship and race to Dubai victories

What a year: Rory McIlroy celebrates his DP World Tour Championship and race to Dubai victories

Say cheese: Caroline Wozniacki captures McIlroy's big moment

Say cheese: Caroline Wozniacki captures McIlroy's big moment

But while world No 2 Luke Donald was troubled by a sinus infection and would finish in a tie for third, it was Justin Rose who came through to play the round of his life.

Rose's 62 not only lowered the course record by two shots, it was two better than any round he had previously played in his career.

When he signed off after one of the putts of the season on the 18th, he was two clear of McIlroy, who had just birdied the 14th.

Remember the way Woods used to sense danger and respond accordingly That power now lies with the remarkable Northern Irishman, who followed that birdie with four more to win by two strokes.

After watching Ian Poulter finish their fourballs match at the Ryder Cup on Saturday with five birdies, here he had produced a similar thrilling spree of his own. Watched by record crowds here, it made for a captivating show.

Size does matter: McIlroy gets to grips with the huge prize he scooped for winning the race to Dubai

Size does matter: McIlroy gets to grips with the huge prize he scooped for winning the race to Dubai

Big finish: McIlroy birdied the last to put the cap on a fantastic few days at the Earth Course

Big finish: McIlroy birdied the last to put the cap on a fantastic few days at the Earth Course

That's my boy: Wozniacki was there to watch Rory succeed in Dubai

That's my boy: Wozniacki was there to watch Rory succeed in Dubai

Race to Dubai – final standings

1 Rory McIlroy 4,445,925
2 Justin Rose 3,035,589
3 Louis Oosthuizen 2,567,581
4 Peter Hanson 2,435,109
5 Ian Poulter 2,079,331
6 Branden Grace 2,015,889
7 Luke Donald 1,912,004
8 Francesco Molinari 1,784,477
9 Graeme McDowell 1,566,840
10 Paul Lawrie 1,538,907
11 Nicolas Colsaerts 1,406,284
12 Lee Westwood 1,346,441
13 Matteo Manassero 1,284,926
14 Marcel Siem 1,102,673
15 Thorbjorn Olesen 1,054,682
16 Charl Schwartzel 986,270
17 Rafa Cabrera Bello 975,406
18 David Lynn 973,614
19 Jamie Donaldson 926,885
20 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 888,277

And so all the spoils went to McIlroy on the final afternoon of the European Tour season, as he claimed 838,000 for the tournament to go alongside the 629,000 bonus that was already his for winning the Race to Dubai.

'It is a great way to end a great year,' said McIlroy. 'I came here with that intention and to pull it off feels tremendous.

'It was a dream finish, managing all those birdies and a wonderful way to go into my break. Now I can really enjoy it.'

There were many shots down the stretch that were memorable but his play at the 17th and 18th holes, in particular, stood out.

Tied with Rose standing on the 17th tee, he produced a bullet of an iron shot that finished 6ft short of the flag and he holed the birdie putt.

Then, at the par five 18th, and with
the green clearly reachable in two, the 23 year old emphasised his
growing maturity by resisting the temptation to grandstand and playing
for a par five.

As it turned out, he pitched from 85 yards to 12ft and holed the birdie putt to make it a two-stroke triumph rather than one.

It was Rory's day, then, but it was difficult not to feel an ounce of sympathy for the two Englishman left in his wake.

Donald didn't need to say anything about the sinus problem that has dogged him throughout his career. You could see it in his bloodshot eyes and hear it in his voice.

He's put if off for years but no longer…he will have a sinus operation in a fortnight.

What a round: Justin Rose finished with a 62 to claim second place behind McIlroy

What a round: Justin Rose finished with a 62 to claim second place behind McIlroy

As for Rose, his experienced caddie Mark Fulcher called his man's 62 'the greatest round of golf I have ever seen in my life.'

It contained a signature finish, too, as Rose had a putt from all of 100ft at the last. About three-quarters of the way, there was a ridge the ball had to just fall over if it was to finish next to the hole.

As Rose said:'It was one of those hero or zero putts, where you look like an idiot if the ball stops just short of the ridge but thankfully it just crawled over.'

He gave a joyous clenched fist salute when it almost went in, before heading for the practice ground.

At worst, it looked like he would be in a play-off. But then came Rory and a year that was already celebratory had just been given a glorious exclamation point.

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Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald set for Sunday showdown in Dubai

Duel in Dubai! McIlroy and Donald set for Sunday showdown on European Tour season finale

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UPDATED:

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.

Driving seat: But Rory McIlroy is not alone at the top of the leaderboard

Driving seat: But Rory McIlroy is not alone at the top of the leaderboard

DP World Tour Championship

Click here for the full leaderboard

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
yards.

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

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.

Glamour game: Caroline Wozniacki was there to support McIlroy in Dubai

Glamour game: Caroline Wozniacki was there to support McIlroy in Dubai

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.

Image article-2237407-162D0F08000005DC-344_634x410.jpg

Rory McIroy, Luke Donald and Marc Warren lead DP World Tour Championship

McIlroy v Donald battle still on as Warren joins big two at top of Dubai leaderboard

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UPDATED:

14:22 GMT, 23 November 2012

There's some storm brewing here in the desert with Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald disputing the halfway lead with Marc Warren in the DP World Tour Championship.

McIlroy defied an overnight bout of sickness to post a 67 for an 11-under-par total of 133.

Ten minutes later, Donald struck a trademark nine iron to 4ft for a birdie at the last to tie the world No 1.

Share the joy: Rory McIroy is in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard

Share the joy: Rory McIroy is in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard

DP World Tour Championship

Click here for the full leaderboard

Then Warren tapped in for a par to make this season finale an England-Scotland-Northern Ireland affair at the top after 36 holes.

Next come the South Africans Branden Grace and former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen.

How easy it would have been for McIlroy to come here and take his foot off the pedal, with the Race to Dubai already sewn up, but no-one got to be the world's best player thinking like that.

Indeed, McIlroy handed out a warning to everyone else seeking to deny him making it a notable double here on Sunday.

'I came here as motivated as I have been all season and I am determined to end the season with a bang and win here in the desert,' he said.

There didn't appear much chance of that when he looked like he was coming down with a sickness bug on Thursday night.

A cup of lemon tea from girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and a couple of pills, however, and he was feeling much better on Friday.

Where he wants to be: Luke Donald has a share of the lead at the DP World Tour Championship

Where he wants to be: Luke Donald has a share of the lead at the DP World Tour Championship

Driving the ball imperiously, he gave himself a host of chances in another accomplished round.

'I feel this course gives me a good advantage if I'm driving it well because I can clear a lot of the fairway bunkers,' he explained.

'I missed a couple of short putts on the front nine but I've got to be happy tied for the lead going into the weekend.'

Like McIlroy, Donald has just two rounds of his season left to play and enters the final 36 holes with the same focus.

Winner last week in Japan, Donald said: 'I've got 36 holes to go and I really want to sign off with a victory.'

Donald doesn't have the length off the tee that gives McIlroy his advantage but counters that very handily with iron shots like the beauty he played at the last.

As for Warren, he had a golden opportunity to win the Scottish Open on home soil in July and is intent on showing what he has learned from that experience, when he was two ahead with three to play only to lose out in a sudden death play-off to Indian Jeev Milkha Singh.

Making a splash: Marc Warren is on 11 under after a 65 on Friday at the Earth Course

Making a splash: Marc Warren is on 11 under after a 65 on Friday at the Earth Course

All those nervous hopefuls preparing to take part on Saturday in that nerve-wracking experience known as the European Tour's Qualifying School can take great heart from the sight of South African Grace so high up the leaderboard. This time last year, he was one of them.

'It's one of those hard weeks where you don't care if you win it or finish 30th, as long as you secure your card for next year, so good luck to all the guys,' he said.

As it happens, Grace finished 11th before embarking on a season that, as he puts it, is 'beyond a dream.'

Not only has the 24-year-old won no fewer than four times, he is in a great position in this event going into the weekend, and will play with Donald on Saturday.

'I guess you could come here with the attitude of freewheeling and enjoying it but I came here with a couple of goals for the last event and I'm determined to pull them off,' he said.

In contention: South African Branden Grace is just one shot off the leaders

In contention: South African Branden Grace is just one shot off the leaders

'Obviously I can't win the Race to Dubai as Rory has already done that but I could finish second and I want to try for that.

'Then there's obviously lots of world ranking points at stake and I want to push for as many of those as I can.'

No question about the most remarkable round of the day. Sergio Garcia had nine birdies and two eagles on his card, which was just the amount of gains he needed to shoot the European Tour's first-ever round of 59.

Even with a couple of tees pushed forward, what a remarkable achievement that would have been on a course measuring around 7,400 yards.

Up and down: Sergio Garcia had an eventful day as he fired a 64 in his second round

Up and down: Sergio Garcia had an eventful day as he fired a 64 in his second round

Alas for the gifted Spaniard, there were not only a couple of bogeys coming home but a potentially very costly triple at the 16th that leaves him four adrift of the leaders.

'I don't think I have ever had a roller-coaster round quite like that, with so much going on during the back nine,' said Garcia, who eventually signed for a 64 that tied the course record.

The 32-year-old is playing for just the second time since having laser eye surgery and certainly had his eye in on Friday.

There are plenty of gifted shot-makers lurking just off the lead, like former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel on nine under and Justin Rose and Nicolas Colsaerts on eight.

Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, however, are a distant eight and nine shots adrift after rounds of 74 and 70 respectively.

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Luke Donald leads DP World Tour Championship

Donald leads the way but McIlroy sits one back as top two target another Dubai battle

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UPDATED:

13:58 GMT, 22 November 2012

They’re ranked No 1 and 2 in the world and No 1 and tied second on the leaderboard after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship.

Twelve months after their wonderful duel for the Race to Dubai, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are it again here in the Middle East.

Fresh from his win in Japan last week, world No 2 Donald shot a 65 for a one stroke lead over McIlroy, Scot Marc Warren and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Out in front: Luke Donald is the leader after round one of the DP World Tour Championship

Out in front: Luke Donald is the leader after round one of the DP World Tour Championship

DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Click here for the full leaderboard

‘There’s a long way to go, of course, but I think it would be fun for everyone if Rory and myself were to find ourselves in the final group on Sunday,’ said Donald.

‘I’d certainly welcome the challenge, that is for sure.’

There would be no Race to Dubai title on the line this time, of course – McIlroy has already sewn that one up – but Donald has his eye on winning this event and adding more gloss on a season that has seen him win three times already to make it eight victories over the last two and a half years.

‘I’d give this season a mark of eight out of 10,’ said Donald. ‘It is true that I didn’t play quite as I wanted at the majors but around them there are a lot of positives to take into next season.

'I’ve won a good number of tournaments over this stretch and I feel like I am in the finest form of my career.’

Sitting pretty: Rory McIlroy is just one behind Donald after the opening round

Sitting pretty: Rory McIlroy is just one behind Donald after the opening round

McIlroy came to the last needing a birdie four to ensure he would be playing with Donald on Friday and was a little miffed to miss out.

‘There’s always a nice buzz playing with Luke,’ he said. ‘We’re the two best-ranked players and he’s so tough to beat. But let’s hope we can keep playing well and so we’re playing together later in the tournament.’

There was a moment of levity in McIlroy’s press conference when his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki picked up the microphone.

‘Given the amazing support you’re getting out here this week, if you win can I expect a nice Christmas present,’ she said.

Support act: Caroline Wozniacki was there backing her boyfriend McIlroy

Support act: Caroline Wozniacki was there backing her boyfriend McIlroy

‘Don’t you get enough nice presents’ replied Rory.

‘How am I as a cheerleader’ asked Caroline.

‘You’re a better tennis player,’ said McIlroy.

There are plenty of good players in touch who are all intent on ensuring this isn’t just the Luke and Rory show.

Lee Westwood, who clinched both the Race to Dubai and this title here three years ago, is nicely in touch after a 67, the same mark as Padraig Harrington.

Right up there: Lee Westwood is just two shots off the pace after a 67 at the Earth Course

Right up there: Lee Westwood is just two shots off the pace after a 67 at the Earth Course

Two more Ryder Cup players, Justin Rose and Nicolas Colsaerts, shot 68, but Ian Poulter could only manage a 72 and, in typical black and white fashion, said he was disgusted with himself.

‘Finally hit the wall today, the jetlag has caught up with me,’ said Poults, who finished runner-up in Australia last week and won in China three weeks ago.