Donald: Win ‘validates’ top ranking

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Donald: Win ‘validates’ top ranking

SUN CITY, South Africa - Five weeks after a stunning finish at Disney World, Luke Donald returns to competition at the Nedbank Challenge refreshed and feeling his position at the top of golf’s rankings is “validated.’’

The Englishman plays his first event this week since reeling off six straight birdies on the back nine of his final round to win the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic on Oct. 23 and clinch the U.S. PGA Tour money title from Webb Simpson.

Having accomplished phase one of his mission to become the first player to top the U.S. and European money lists in the same season, Donald said that the incredible come-from-behind victory in Orlando confirmed his place as the world’s top golfer this season, despite the absence of a major title.

“It’s nice to come up with great shots and great putting and everything that went with that when you need it the most,’’ Donald said at Sun City on Wednesday. “I obviously had a pretty good amount of catching up to beat Webb.

“I knew I had to go there and win the tournament and obviously to reel off six birdies in a row on the back nine on Sunday was a lot of validation to how good I’ve been performing this year and the added confidence I’ve gained from all the wins I’ve had. So, it really meant a lot.’’

He added his recent break allowed him to “savor’’ his Disney World moment, where he came from five shots back to shoot 30 over his last nine holes. He also was able to recharge his batteries at home - and celebrate the birth of his second child - ahead of a likely historic end to a groundbreaking season.

“I haven’t locked it up yet,’’ Donald said.

His unprecedented success on both tours can only be spoiled by Rory McIlroy, who trails Donald by a little over one million euros ($1.3 million) on the European Tour. The No. 2-ranked Northern Irishman could make the season-ending Dubai World Championship a race for the money title with victory at the Hong Kong Open this weekend.

While South Africa’s invitational $5 million Nedbank Challenge has a hefty winner’s check of $1.25 million, that cash doesn’t count on the European Tour should Donald win this weekend at the Gary Player Country Club.

“We’ll see what Rory does this week and how much pressure he can put on me. I’m sure it won’t be easy. I’m sure he’ll put up a fight and I’m looking forward to the challenge,’’ Donald said ahead of a possible Race to Dubai decider. “Usually after the break I come back feeling a lot stronger about my game.

“Obviously I would love to walk away with both money lists because that would be history - something that nobody has ever done before.’’ AP

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