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Swell of success

'Top spot is rich reward for Luke, one of golf's gentlemen'

Ewen Murray Posted 26th October 2011 view comments

The writer of this column - along with its readers - will be without question thrilled with the performance throughout the season of the undisputed world number one, England's Luke Donald.

In what was an enthralling finish to the PGA Tour season, Luke cemented his place at the summit of the sport.

With Tiger's troubles continuing to take their toll, many players had an opportunity to take his place at the top of the rankings, and it was the former Beaconsfield golf club member who seized the challenge by the scruff of the neck.

Right on cue: Donald timed his rise to the summit perfectly

Right on cue: Donald timed his rise to the summit perfectly

It would take up the whole column to record his achievements during the past year so I've edited them down to these.

Excellence

His stroke average in Europe is 69.24; it's nearly half a shot better Stateside.

In his last 24 tournaments he boasts no fewer than 18 top tens with wins in the Accenture, Scottish Open, Disney and the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.

All of Luke's statistics are hugely impressive but one thing stands out above all of these. It couldn't happen to a finer gentleman.

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It's worth noting that he won that in a play-off against the then world number one, Lee Westwood and it signalled his arrival at the pinnacle of the game.

Since then it's been a procession of excellence and the awards will come thick and fast as the year comes to a close.

By the Dubai World Championship in December, his earnings will have soared through the ten million dollar barrier. All of his statistics are hugely impressive but one thing stands out above all of these. It couldn't happen to a finer gentleman.

Image

Another talking point recently has been the parting of the ways of US Open champion Rory McIlroy and his management company of four years, International Sports Management.

It came as a surprise to hear Rory say he didn't like his website and his sponsors, yet it was more of a shock when he said he was unhappy with his public image. I'm not sure where he is coming from there.

Having watched him play all over the globe during these early years of his professional career, I have yet to hear anybody say a bad word about him.

His manners are impeccable, he's excellent company with an old head on young shoulders and he displays a lot of respect both on and off the course. So what's with the change?

I've known Andrew "Chubby" Chandler for close on 40 years. We played together on tour in our early years and obviously our paths have crossed frequently in the media world during the last two decades. ISM's success is unparalleled and in the four years of managing Rory, together, they have progressed impressively.

Remember that wonderful three at the 18th at St. Andrews to finish third in the Dunhill Links thus avoiding a trip to the qualifying school? How about that win in Dubai against a stellar field and in front of where one of his main sponsors is based, plus the mature handling of a poor final day at Augusta?

Most impressive of all was the way he demolished the best players in the world to claim America's national title in its capital.

At 22 years of age, Rory is in the world' s top three. All in all, it has been a very successful beginning to his professional career.

His, or ISM's decision for him not to play the PGA Tour full time this year was the correct one. It's fine if you are American as it is your home and you are familiar with all that is presented to you.

Given Rory's tender years, it was wise to give him a little more time and as US Open Champion, the time is probably now right for him to rejoin their tour.

Luke Donald has shown what can be achieved on both tours with careful planning. Rory has yet to make a statement and maybe it will transpire that he felt the relationship had run its course. ISM will of course continue as normal despite losing their star performer and Rory's new management company, Horizon, is also a first class establishment.

Its founder, Conor Ridge, knows the game inside out and their handling of Graeme McDowell after his US Open win was admirable.

In Rory, we have a golfing gem and at the end of all this, I wish all parties well.

Supreme

It was a great pleasure to put the words over young Tom Lewis's first professional win at the Portugal Masters and like Rory a few years back, the qualifying school will not be in his diary.

Instead, he will head east to Shanghai for the final World Golf Championship next week. His 65 at Royal St Georges in July won the hearts of many golfing spectators but it was in Dubai earlier this year that this remarkable young talent emerged.

His play there was noted by his now caddie, Colin Byrne, who had no hesitation in taking on his bag after Tom decided to leave the amateur ranks.

His calmness over the closing holes at the Victoria club in Vilamoura was exceptional. His course management was supreme and as one or two experienced players fell away, he seized his opportunity like a veteran. It was as if he was born to do this.

In Byrne, he has one of the most capable caddies in the game and one that will guide him through his formative years on tour. His second win won't be long in coming.

Rethink

Before I close I'd like to express my thanks for your comments over the past month. I think we all agreed that the Fed-Ex Cup needs a rethink and that Tiger Woods still has much work to do before he visits former glories.

David S questioned Butch Harmon's coaching of Woods saying that he thought the pressure on Tiger's knee was not sustainable.

I'm not a doctor David, but I know Tiger was the fittest and strongest golfer the game has ever seen. It should also be noted Tiger had a knee injury early in his life before he turned professional.

As for Sean Foley coaching a downward blow with the driver, I think that is just part of the process of Tiger's changes and will be a thing of the past when Sean's teachings mature.

I agree with you about his putting, it looked a lot better as the week wore on.

Golf is in a great place right now and in the weeks ahead we have some fine tournaments to enjoy, which is just as well with the dreaded clock change this weekend which puts the kybosh on afternoon golf.

I hope Tiger comes back fit and strong in January and goes head-to-head with Rory, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Luke and dare I say, Tom Lewis.

We'll chat from the Sheshan Club next week.

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