Dynamic Donald on brink of unique double
DUBAI (Reuters) - The local billboards call the Dubai World Championship the "greatest show on Earth" and Luke Donald did his best to justify that tag with a faultless six-under-par 66 in Saturday's third round.
The world number one's performance means he now stands on the threshold of achieving a unique golfing double by landing the order of merit titles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Donald, who secured the U.S. PGA Tour money-list in October, is also leading the way in Europe and needs to finish no worse than ninth with no more than one other competitor to edge out his only rival, Rory McIlroy, in the season finale in Dubai.
The 34-year-old Donald was fourth on 10-under 206 at the end of the third round, four strokes adrift of tournament leader Alvaro Quiros (70) of Spain.
McIlroy could only manage a 71 for 208 at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
"The race is over," the 22-year-old Northern Irishman told reporters. "Luke is in a great position and I expect him to go out and shoot another very solid round tomorrow.
"He deserves it, he's had an incredible year. He has played great. He deserves to be number one in the world and deserves to win both money-lists."
Donald, however, refused to consider the money-list race was run with one round still remaining.
"You can't in this game," he said. "I would be foolish to expect it is over.
"Tomorrow will be just like any other day in terms of my focus. I will be trying to catch the leader and trying to win the tournament."
Donald has already won four times in a remarkably consistent season and a fifth victory is still a possibility after he blazed his way to six birdies in the scorching Dubai heat.
"To win both money-lists would be a little bit of history," said the Englishman. "If it all works out tomorrow it will be a pretty amazing feat."
Donald said he tried to ignore how McIlroy was faring elsewhere on the course.
"The first time I saw a leaderboard was on the 13th I think," he explained. "I tried not to really look and just kind of concentrated on my own game.
"The couple of times I did look I didn't see his name on there so obviously he wasn't playing his best today.
"But it didn't really change anything for me, other than maybe a slight ease and peace of mind. My career has been built on consistency and today was a good example of that."
Donald said there were occasional moments when his mind wandered away from the task in hand.
"The money-list race comes into your mind now and again but you try and put it away quickly and get back to focusing on the job," he added.
"There were definitely a couple of times when I was on putts and my mind wandered a little bit ... you just have to step back, shut it out and get back focusing."
Donald said the peculiar nature of this week's event, where there are effectively two competitions at stake in one tournament, had evoked memories of the start of his professional career.
"In a way it's felt like being at Qualifying School," he said. "I haven't been there for 10 years but doing all the great work I've done this year, if I'm not able to quite complete it, that would feel like I'd missed out.
"It is going to be a tough day tomorrow. I'm going to feel it but I'm in a good position."
(Editing by Dave Thompson)
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