LUKE Donald believes holding off the challenge of Rory McIlroy to complete an historic money list double in Dubai this week will rank as his greatest achievement in golf.
Donald, the world No 1, already has the US PGA Tour money crown in the bag after leapfrogging Webb Simpson with a magical comeback at the Disney Open in Florida in October.
But now the 34-year-old from Hertfordshire must defend a lead of his own in Dubai, with Northern Irishman McIlroy snapping at his heels.
His lead is more than £680,000 entering the final event of the season, but the first prize is £793,298.
A finish in the top nine would secure the overall European title, an accolade Donald will devote to his late father Colin, who died suddenly on November 8.
Donald saw his lead eroded after taking a month-long break following this and the birth of his second daughter a few days later.
“If it works out on Sunday it will be my biggest achievement,” he said.
“It’s been a wide range of emotions, something you can’t ever prepare for. My father’s death was very, very sad and very tough, but the birth of my second daughter spread a little grace on the situation.
“I’m not sure he will specifically be on my mind this weekend, but it would be nice to win it for him.”
With the 58-strong field teeing off in reverse money list order, Donald and McIlroy will set off last at 12.30 local time today, and the leader is expecting a tough challenge from his playing partner.
While Donald was finishing only seventh out of 12 at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last weekend, McIlroy won the Hong Kong Open to keep the title race alive.
“It served its purpose – it was a week for shaking off some rust,” said Donald. “I didn’t do a lot during my time off, so it was an opportunity to play four rounds and find a bit of timing and rhythm. That’s what I used it as.”
McIlroy will draw on the experience of two years ago, when he lost in a head-to-head with Lee Westwood for the money list title on the same course at the inaugural Dubai World Championship.
“It was tough to fully concentrate on my own game when you’re looking at the player beside you,” said the US Open champion.
“I feel like it’s something I’ve learnt because when I go out with Luke in the last game I’ll be trying to concentrate on myself and making sure I can play the best I can.
“I’ve got a slim chance. I’ve got to win and Luke has to finish outside the top nine or 10, whatever it is. I’m really not counting on him to do that.”