DUBAI (Reuters) - Luke Donald was on top of the world in more ways than one on Sunday after becoming the first player to win the money-list crowns in Europe and the United States.
Rival Rory McIlroy needed to win the Dubai World Championship to deny Englishman Donald the chance of topping the order of merit in Europe but the young Northern Irishman ended up in joint 11th place on nine-under 279 after closing with a 71.
The 34-year-old Donald, who has been at the summit of the world rankings for 27 weeks, had already clinched the U.S. Tour's money-list crown in October.
"I couldn't see Rory's name on the leaderboard but I kind of knew the double was mine by the 13th hole," Donald told reporters after shooting a 66 for 272 to take third place behind Dubai winner Alvaro Quiros of Spain (269).
"I knew I had made history and the last six holes were kind of surreal," added the winner of this year's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, PGA Championship at Wentworth, Scottish Open in Inverness and Disney Classic in Florida.
"The pressure went away and I was able to enjoy myself, have a few smiles and enjoy the walk. I guess that's what it is all about," added Donald.
McIlroy has been feeling tired and drained after suffering with a viral infection for a couple of weeks and he said this had simply been a tournament too far at the end of a hectic playing schedule.
"I couldn't get anything going when I needed to. I played a nine-hole stretch, the last two on Friday and the first seven on Saturday, in five over par. That's where the tournament got away from me," said McIlroy.
The world number two said he would skip next week's inaugural Thailand Golf Championship, the last event of the season on the Asian Tour.
"I can't wait to have a few weeks off," added McIlroy. "People telling you what to do and where to go, another flight, more sleeping patterns messed up. Next week would have been a big struggle too.
"The doctor told me last night that no matter how bad I'm feeling now I'd be even worse if I played next week."
McIlroy will next be in action at the Abu Dhabi Championship from January 26-29.
As for Donald, he was basking in the glow of a campaign he did not even dare to dream of at the turn of the year.
"It's something you always hope for and believe is possible," he said. "But doing it and believing it is totally different.
"There were a lot of lean years there for a while when I wasn't winning. You've just got to keep believing that at some point it's going to be your time."
Donald still has next week's Australian Masters to play in before his competitive year is done.
Donald was asked how his father, who died a month ago, would have reacted to his success.
"He popped into my head a few times today especially after the 13th hole," the Englishman replied.
"I just remembered him and I think he would have been very proud of me. I'm sure he would have given me a big hug."
(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)