In the arena of professional golf, a great deal of focus is placed on tradition, history, comparative statistics, world rankings and money lists. For modern-day male professionals, there are three major categories that will likely influence the popular opinion as to your playing ability: the Official World Golf Ranking, the European Order of Merit, and the PGA TOUR money list.
Luke Donald is securely seated on the top of all three of those lists heading into this week. So why doesn’t it feel like it?
One possible explanation for this sense of “blah-ness” regarding his stature on both Tours is that Donald doesn’t hold any of those lists as his top priority. According to Mark Garrod of the Scotsman, the English-born Donald has his eyes locked on winning the FedEx Cup above all else. Thanks to Dustin Johnson’s victory at The Barclays last week, however, Donald’s position in the FXC rankings has dropped from fourth to fifth in just one week.
“I’m not so much concerned with the money list. I’m more concerned with winning the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup,” said the Englishman last week. “Winning trophies rather than the title of being leading money winner is much more important to me.”
Donald does bring up a valid point, which could ultimately be why his success in 2011 has been relatively quiet: he hasn’t won a whole lot. His victory at this season’s WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship was his first in almost 5 years on TOUR. In fact, he has only accumulated three PGA TOUR victories since his rookie year in 1999. This season has certainly been his strongest since joining the TOUR, of course; however, his strong play continues to lack a sense of “dominance” that many golf fans may have become accustomed to when discussing World Ranking and money list position.
Of course, the name “Luke Donald” has certainly been a fixture on both Tours for over a decade. He routinely plays a high number of tournaments each season and has quickly become a fan-favorite in both Europe and the United States. However, his number of tournament appearances has been on a steady decline over the past few years since 2002. Despite his persistence, however, Donald’s success has come across more gradually than anything, giving him the appearance of “sneaking” into his current stature in golf seemingly under the radar. This gradual rise is (ironically) amplified, again, by his lack of tournament wins that would otherwise place him in the spotlight faster.
The following is a chart that details Donald’s progression, spanning years 1999 – 2009 (via DatabaseGolf.com):
While I am certainly not suggesting that he is undeserving of his current place atop the various golf ranking lists, Luke Donald continues to be a bit of a mystery to me in terms of his place in the minds of many golf circles. Regardless, we should all be sure to pay as much attention to this great talent before his position begins to fall as quietly as it rose. If we aren’t careful, we might just blink and miss something special.