Maginnes on Tap: Donald redefines success in '11

Luke Donald poses with the trophy after winning The Race To Dubai at the Dubai.

Luke Donald poses with the trophy after winning The Race To Dubai at the Dubai.

The debate is over. Luke Donald won. For much of the first half of the year pundits and players alike were confused by a system that allowed for the highest ranked player in the world to have never won a major. How could Lee Westwood and then Luke Donald be considered the best players in the world if they can’t get it done on the game’s biggest stage?

That question isn’t being asked now. Luke Donald may not seem to embrace his status as the game’s best with the same vigor as some of his predecessors but no one is disputing his worthiness. If he were painting a picture of his 2011 season it would include four trophies and two money titles and be on a background of green. Either that or it would be modern art and look like something like what a four year old could do.

Luke Donald is changing the way that we view success in professional golf. This year Donald won a money list, an Order of Merit, a race and four professional events. Toss in a couple of Player of the Year honors and the No. 1 ranking in the world and you would have to say that Luke has had one heck of a year. What was amazing was that shortly after the death of his father and the birth of his second daughter he teed it up again in an effort to win the Race to Dubai. He accomplished what he set out to do.

This season will not go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Luke did do something that no one else had ever done before but only because he was a full time member of both tours. There were several years in the last decade where a former No. 1 would have won the European Order of Merit if he had only joined the European Tour. But Tiger never made the commitment to play enough in Europe to maintain a membership.

OK, it is not fair to compare Luke’s year to any in Tiger’s heyday. Luke beat everyone on both sides of the pond this year. Enough said. Incidentally, he also lost the FedEx Cup by a single shot for the second year in a row. It was nice of him to leave some scraps on the table.

Luke’s success this year begs a question about how we perceive the game. Are the majors less important now than they have ever been? We are only five years into the PGA Tour’s era of the FedEx Cup. Europe has had its Race to Dubai for the same amount of time. With global golf a weekly occurrence do we put as much stock in the majors as we once did?

The answer has to be no. Obviously the majors are going garner the most attention. People who rarely pay attention to golf sit up and take notice of our sport during those four hallowed weeks each year. After Luke won Disney and locked up the PGA Tour money list there were still those who said that they would rather have Keegan Bradely’s year than Luke Donald’s. Understandable, a major is a major and will always hold its allure. But when you consider Luke’s success worldwide, the question of which year you would rather have becomes a little more confusing.

Whichever side of the debate you fall, we all have to agree that Luke Donald is the best player in the world. Furthermore, it seems more than likely that he will rise to the occasion and win a major championship sometime soon. It is the only question he has left to answer, but it is a big question. At this point he is not just the “best player yet to win a major”. He may be the best ever to wear that dubious crown.

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