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Donald on Cusp of History
Luke Donald is fully aware of where he stands heading into the final round of the Dubai World Championship. If he maintains his position - currently fourth - or doesn't slip too far down the leaderboard Sunday, the 34-year-old from England will become the first player in history to win the money titles on both the PGA and European tours.
After opening with rounds of 72 and 68, Donald carded six birdies Saturday for a 6-under 66. He's currently four shots behind the leader, Alvaro Quiros of Spain, who stands at 14-under 202.
Donald has already sewn up the PGA Tour money list title and is in prime position to take the Race to Dubai title, the former Order of Merit that signifies the top earner on the European Tour. The only player that could catch him in this week's season-ending event, Rory McIlroy, dropped into a tie for eighth after a 71 in the third round.
For McIlroy to overtake Donald, he needs to win the Dubai World Championship while Donald must fall out of the top-nine. That's unlikely, as Donald has not placed in the top-10 only three times this year on the European Tour. In 24 official events in America and Europe, he has 18 top-10 finishes while competing against some of the world's best players.
After his 66 in the third round in Dubai, Donald said he's focused on the task at hand - winning a golf tournament - and not on his place in the history books. Yet he's aware of that future legacy.
"I'm not really worried about (winning the Race to Dubai)," he said Saturday afternoon. "You always like recognition. You know, I was asked this on Wednesday. I think if it all works out tomorrow, it's a pretty amazing feat what I've done.
"Look at all of the awards and accomplishments that I've won this year, and you know, to win both money lists is a little bit - it is history. Hopefully I will get that recognition."
Here's what else he told reporters following his clutch 66 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
MODERATOR: Well, Luke, creating history isn't a very easy business, but that was something of a master class today. I'm sure you're very proud of your work.
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, in terms of ball striking, it wasn't perfect by any means, but in terms of grinding it out when I did make mistakes, I was saving myself well with short game, which is something I've done very well all year. Picked up birdies when I had the opportunities and really took full advantage of all those opportunities. Obviously to score six birdies with no dropped shots was just the round I was looking for.
MODERATOR: Well, the Race is almost run, but I'm sure you're taking nothing for granted yet.
LUKE DONALD: No, you can't in this game. I would be foolish to expect that it's over. Tomorrow it will be just like any other day in terms of my focus will be on trying to catch whoever is the leader and trying to win the tournament.
MODERATOR: But it's nice that you do have that chance actually to win the tournament, as well as the overall Race.
LUKE DONALD: That would make tomorrow even sweeter, but yeah, obviously I'm in a good position.
Q. When did you first note anything about Rory today? Were just looking at leaderboards to see if his name was on it or not?
LUKE DONALD: First time I saw a leaderboard was 13 I think. I tried not to really look, just kind of concentrate on my own game. Obviously the couple of times I did look at leader boards, I didn't see his name on, so obviously he wasn't playing his best today. I'm not really sure where he's at right now. But yeah, obviously he wasn't climbing up the leaderboard. It really didn't change anything for me. But other than maybe a slight ease and the peace of mind.
Q. Does this day encapsulate the season in some ways?
LUKE DONALD: Does this?
Q. This day, encapsulate the season in some ways?
LUKE DONALD: I mean, in a certain way. There was a lot of grind out there. It was a solid round of golf but certainly wasn't perfect. I wasn't 100 per cent comfortable. I hit a few loose shots but when I got in trouble, I was able to really dig myself out of it with some great short game, hole some good putts. Just really kept everything in front of me and didn't make any mistakes. You know, I think my career has been built on the consistency and that was kind of a good example of it.
Q. Did you start thinking about the race at all, the historical implications as you were saying or is that still something you were trying to keep away from?
LUKE DONALD: It comes into your mind now and again, but you try and put it away quickly and get back to focusing on the shot at hand. There's definitely been a couple of times where I've been on putts and my mind has wandered a little bit, and you've just got to step back, kind of shut it out and get back focusing.
Q. I know you try not to get ahead of yourself, but tomorrow would need to have an extraordinary series of collapses by some great names on the leaderboard and an extraordinary round from Rory; you must have realized that it's pretty much done?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I'm certainly in a good position. Again, Paul, I'm not going to really I'm not going to try and think like that. I'm going to try and treat tomorrow's round like the fourth round of any other tournament. And the fact that I've got an opportunity to put some pressure on the leaders and win the event, I think I said that from the start; I could get in trouble if I concentrate on that 9th place position. At times, it's been tough not to. In a certain way, it's almost felt a little bit like Q School. I haven't been there for ten years, but doing all the great work that I've done this year, if I wasn't able to quite complete it, I feel like I'd walk away with missing out. It's going to be a tough day tomorrow. I'm going to feel it, but I'm obviously as I said, I'm in a good position.
Q. Your short game today was demonstrably better than anyone else's. Do you just attribute that, as it has been all year, do you attribute that just to practicing longer and harder than anybody else?
LUKE DONALD: I attribute it to partly that, yeah. Obviously work ethic is a big part of what I pride myself on. But I have a great short game coach in Pat Goss. He's pretty much a little bit unknown amongst the golfing world. He's the head coach at Northwestern. He's obviously been my coach for 14 years, but I think his short game skills at teaching short game are very good. He's really helped me a lot.
Q. I know you don't want to count any chickens yet, but if you rewind to the start of the year, could you have ever imagined you'd have a season like you've had this season?
LUKE DONALD: Something you always hope for and believe that it's somewhat possible. But doing it and believing it is totally different. There was a lot of lean years there for a while where I wasn't winning. Felt kind of frustrated on the course. Wasn't getting a lot out of it. But there's a lot of good examples of golfers where you just wait for your time. I think Harrington almost has been a little bit of a role model for me. He had so many seconds in his career; suddenly he became very patient and suddenly he won three majors in two years. You've just got to keep believing that at some point, it's going to be your time.
Q. How are you going to spend this evening now?
LUKE DONALD: Same as every night probably. Go back, might do 20 or 30 minutes in the gym just to get a little bit of a sweat on, and then go eat and go to sleep. I'll talk to my family on Skype and see how their day is going, and get up tomorrow just like usual.
Q. Just talking about the round, you talked about your putting. Maybe you could hit some of the high points that you felt; what were some of the high points out there?
LUKE DONALD: I think just getting off to a great start. I had struggled on the first hole all week, made bogey there Thursday, Friday. And to make a three there felt like I made up two shots, which I suppose I did in a way. Birdied No.2, and I was kind of off and running. Again, every time I had an opportunity, I sort of took it. I made a nice birdie on 5 from about ten feet. Hit it really close on 8. 9 again, I hit a horrible second shot and that was a very tough chip and hit it to that. So it was a mixture of just taking my opportunities when I had them, and minimizing those mistakes when I made them.
Q. History is a big word and it's a big achievement. Do you think you'll get the due recognition of what you've done this year?
LUKE DONALD: That's up to you guys. (Laughter) Not me. You write some nice things, maybe I will (smiling).
Q. Does that worry you at all?
LUKE DONALD: Again, I'm not really worried about it. You always like recognition. You know, I was asked this on Wednesday. I think if it all works out tomorrow, it's a pretty amazing feat what I've done. Look at all of the awards and accomplishments that I've won this year, and you know, to win both money lists is a little bit it is history. Hopefully I will get that recognition.
MODERATOR: Well, if you're sitting here with two titles tomorrow night, it would be hard to argue against it, wouldn't it. Well played again.
LUKE DONALD: That would be a nice birthday present.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.