Rory McIlroy plays in Europe for the first time as world No 1 at Wentworth this week – but it is not because of the rankings that Luke Donald feels jealous of him.
Although Donald will grab the top spot back if he becomes only the third player to make a successful defence of the BMW PGA Championship, it is not what he truly craves.
“I want to win majors. I’m not going to shy away from it – that’s the thing that’s missing on my résumé,” said the 34-year-old.
The European Tour’s awards dinner was held on Tuesday night and Donald collected three trophies, including Players’ Player of the Year with an amazing 95 per cent of the vote.
But sitting close to him were US Open champion McIlroy, Open champion Darren Clarke, last year’s Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and 2010 US PGA champion Martin Kaymer.
“I was very jealous to see some of those trophies and some of those guys,” said Donald.
“Watching them is motivating to get yourself to work harder to try and achieve that. Hopefully that will happen.”
He certainly does not lack for competitive drive.
“Ask my wife – I don’t like to lose at anything. Whether it’s chasing my daughter up to the top of the stairs, I don’t like to let her win – and she’s two years old.
“It’s just that competitive streak in me, I suppose. I’ll pull her back if I have to. Half-joking.”
McIlroy, though, is determined to keep Donald, third-ranked Lee Westwood and the rest of the chasing pack at bay.
Not that the 23-year-old uses the rankings as the only measure of his standing in the game.
Asked if he considered himself better than everyone else now McIlroy replied: “Yeah, I think that you have to believe that you’re better than anyone else.
“On my day I believe I can beat anyone in the world. It’s just a matter of going out there and showing everyone else what I believe.
“It’s hard to walk around saying ‘I’m the best’ or whatever, but you just have to believe in it and be quietly confident.”
Donald was not quite as forceful in his answer to the same question.
“I don’t really think in terms like that,” he said. “I think my focus is to try and always continue to improve and be a better golfer.
“In terms of who is the best, that’s a very hard thing to discuss. Certainly I’ve been one of the most consistent players over the last couple of years.
“I’ve won quite a few events and I’m very proud of what I’ve done the last couple of years.”
The European Tour’s flagship event was the scene a year ago of Donald becoming No 1 for the first time – and it came in the grand manner with a play-off victory over Westwood, the holder of the spot at the time.
“I think I was probably back in my hotel room at that stage,” said McIlroy, who finished down in 24th place and in four starts so far has picked up only one top-10 cheque.
“You couldn’t have written a better finish and it would be great if I could be part of a finish like that this year.”
Westwood would prefer something different.
“To be perfectly honest and to be perfectly ruthless, I would rather I play brilliant and everybody else played crap,” the 39-year-old said.
Whatever the outcome, this is a special time for European golf, with the world’s top three all belonging to the continent.
“I think Luke’s probably the best from 80 yards in the world – he’s phenonemal from that distance,” Westwood added. “And I like the effortless power of Rory.”
As for his own game he just smiled and stated: “I like all of it.”
Even with a win Westwood cannot return to No 1, but taking the title at the 19th attempt would be prize enough.
He has the chance to throw down the gauntlet when he tees off today at 8.15am with Graeme McDowell and Thomas Bjorn, 10 minutes ahead of McIlroy, Ernie Els and Martin Laird.
Donald is among the later starters. His attempt to join Sir Nick Faldo (1980-81) and Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000) begins at 12.40pm with Justin Rose and Alvaro Quiros.
First prize is just shy of £600,000 and the world ranking points on offer also make it a huge tournament for all the Europeans.
Thirty players are being measured up for Ryder Cup clothing this week and the man in 30th spot, France’s Gregory Havret, could leap all the way into the 10th and last automatic qualifying spot. The points race goes on until the end of August.