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  • Alistair Tait

Luke Donald still seeking world number one respect

Good to see Luke Donald’s name near the top of the Honda Classic leaderboard. Reminds me that the Englishman pulled off one of the greatest achievements in modern golf and never got the respect he truly deserved.

And still hasn’t.

Donald, who was one shot off Brendan Steele’s lead at the halfway stage of the Honda, isn’t alone in being dissed for achieving greatness in the royal and ancient game.

The 42 year old spent a total of 56 weeks as the world’s number one player between 2011 and 2012. It’s an accomplishment he didn’t really get credit for. That he held that lofty position in the age of Tiger Woods is one thing, to do it as an average length hitter is another. He stood out among the bombers because of a brilliant short game.

Yet instead of having praise heaped upon him, there were suggestions from some quarters that the Official World Ranking System was somehow not up to scratch because Donald was world number one. These same people did not question the system when Woods was world number one.

As far as media coverage went, Donald didn’t get as much as he deserved. Bet you if you compare the column inches Andy Murray got in that time then Scotsman would have drowned Donald in newsprint. Murray still seems to get excessive coverage. Newspaper editors are obviously more obsessed with the racquet and ball game than the stick and ball one.

Forgotten in the rush to forget Luke Donald is the fact he was the first player to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, a feat he achieved in 2011.

Donald’s achievements are massive, to paraphrase Ian Poulter. Poults is another shortish hitter punching above his weight in an age of bombers. Poulter at least gets the proper media attention given his sartorial style and having a more engaging personality. The Woburn Golf Club member is the yin to Donald’s yang.

I have a huge amount of respect for players like Donald and Poulter who get the absolute most out of their talent even though they do not have the physical prowess of their peers. Paul McGinley fits that bill. The erudite Irishman won four European Tour titles including the 2005 Volvo Masters through sheer persistence and hard work. He once confided in me the key to his success.

“There is no secret in this game. It all comes down to hard work,” Paul McGinley

Luke Donald knows all about that. He’s worked his you know whats off.

Other players who never got full respect for great achievements in golf? Todd Hamilton. Everyone still wonders how he beat Ernie Els in a playoff to win the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon. He beat Ernie because he played better golf that week.

Paul Lawrie never got the credit for his 1999 Open victory at Carnoustie. That championship is still seen as the one Jean Van de Velde lost/threw away, despite Lawrie coming from 10 shots off the lead to shoot 67 on a Sunday on the most brutal course ever to stage the game’s greatest championship. Ben Curtis shares much the same territory. Thomas Bjorn’s “Sands of St George’s” moment overshadowed Curtis’s 2003 Open victory.

While Catriona Matthew was dubbed “super mum” for winning the 2009 Ricoh Women’s Open just three months after giving birth to daughter Sophie, sponsors weren’t exactly queueing up at her door to offer the same lucrative contracts a Scottish man would no doubt have received for winning his home major.

Herman Keiser isn’t a name that will trip off the lips of most golf fans but he suffered from the same lack of recognition for winning the 1946 Masters. Even Augusta National members probably didn’t want the man from Springfield, Missouri to win, especially with Ben Hogan in prime position to win his first Masters. Hogan placed second.

You’ll no doubt have your own candidate for the Rodney Dangerfield “I get no respect” award.

So salutations to you Luke Donald. You deserve far more respect than you’ve received.

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