ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Top-ranked Luke Donald is focused on becoming the first player to top the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic heading into the lucrative Dunhill Links Championship.
Donald tied for third last week at the Tour Championship and earned $418,667, pulling him $68,971 clear of Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour money list.
The 33-year-old Englishman has an even bigger lead on the European Tour money list, with victories at the PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart leaving him more than $2.2 million ahead of nearest challenger Rory McIlroy.
With a winner’s prize of $800,000 at this week’s Dunhill Links, a victory in the prestigious pro-am event played on three of Scotland’s best courses – the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns – would put Donald in an even stronger position.
“It would mean a lot to lead both money lists,” Donald said Wednesday. “I think more the fact that no one has ever done it, being a member of both tours. You always try to accomplish things that nobody has ever done. I think it will be pretty special.”
There is still a long way to go on the European Tour, with 13 events remaining on the calendar and plenty of money at stake.
However, there are only four events to go on the PGA Tour. Donald said he’s done playing in the United States this year, but that could change depending on Simpson’s schedule.
“I will keep an eye on what everyone is doing but rest is important as well. It’s hard to chase everything,” said Donald, whose wife is expecting their second child in six weeks.
Donald may be caught in the money lists, but he’s unlikely to be toppled in the world rankings any time soon.
His consistency has made Donald a relentless front-runner since he became No. 1 in May. Apart from Tiger Woods, the last player to have as big a lead at the top of the rankings was Australian great Greg Norman in May 1996.
Any rivals looking for Donald to slip up this week could be disappointed. The straight, punchy drives that eliminate the wind and his deftness around the greens make his game perfectly suited to links golf. He proved that in a rain-curtailed Scottish Open in July by shooting 19 under in just three rounds.
Donald will attempt to wrest the Dunhill Links title from Martin Kaymer, one of five of the top six players at the pro-am that attracts some of the biggest names in sports and Hollywood.
“To have a good friend in your group and always around you while you play on three wonderful golf courses, it is probably the best week of the year on the European Tour,” said Kaymer, who will have his father as a playing partner and brother as his caddie.
Like Kaymer, second-ranked Lee Westwood has won only one tournament on the European Tour this year. The Englishman is hoping for a change in fortune on the greens as he tries to turn a string of top-10 finishes into victories.
“It’s frustrating when I’m giving myself so many chances and not really walking off with the scores I think I should’ve done,” said Westwood, who won the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea in April. “I haven’t really had what I consider a good putting round all year. Tee to green, I’m very consistent.”
The leading American at the Dunhill Links is fifth-ranked Dustin Johnson, who just learned his caddie, Joe LaCava, is leaving him for Woods. Johnson had already planned to have a friend caddie for him this week in Scotland.
Top players in the field include U.S. Open champion McIlroy, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, British Open winner Darren Clarke, along with major winners Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen.
Among the famous amateurs playing this week are actors Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, Netherlands soccer great Johan Cruyff and former Australia cricketer Shane Warne.