Luke Donald has collected another accolade after his historic season earned him the Golf Writers Trophy for 2011.
Donald is only the second player after Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win the triple crown of awards having already been named the European Tour Golfer of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Darren Clarke, the Open champion, and Rory McIlroy, the US Open champion, tied for second place, while the European Solheim Cup team, captained by Alison Nicholas, took fourth place in the annual poll of members of the Association of Golf Writers.
“Any award you win gives you a great amount of pleasure and for the Golf Writers to consider me as their player of the year means a lot, it really does,” Donald said. “These are the people who really understand golf and appreciate all that I have achieved this year.
“All the people in the running for the AGW award – Rory, Darren, the Solheim Cup team and the Walker Cup team – would have been worthy winners and therefore it is very gratifying to get the vote ahead of all of them. That means an awful lot to me.”
Clarke, who won the Open at his 20th attempt at Sandwich, said: “What Luke Donald has achieved this year is unbelievable. I’m full of admiration for him. And for Rory to win the US Open like he did and so young shows what a fantastic talent he is. Both would be worthy winners of the Golf Writers Trophy.”
McIlroy, whose win in Hong Kong meant the Race to Dubai went down to the final tournament, said: “It has been an amazing year for me but as I said in Dubai, Luke deserves to be the No 1 in our game this year. It is very satisfying to be mentioned alongside Luke, Darren and the Solheim team by the Golf Writers.”
Nicholas, whose team produced an amazing comeback in the late stages to pip the Americans at Killeen Castle, said: “I would like to congratulate the guys for their outstanding performances during 2011 and am delighted the European Solheim Cup team was judged alongside them. It proves the strength of men’s and women’s professional golf in Europe at present and highlights the young and fearless talent that is coming through. Our own next challenge will be to win the Solheim Cup for the first time in the USA in 2013.”
Donald became the first player officially to top of the money lists in both America and Europe. Ending the year as the world No 1, having deposed Lee Westwood by beating his compatriot in a playoff at the BMW PGA Championship, the 34-year-old Englishman won four times in 2011, including the WGC Accenture Matchplay, the Barclays Scottish Open and the Children’s Miracle Network tournament at Disney World. The last title was achieved with six birdies in the last nine holes to overhaul Webb Simpson at the top of the US money list.
Donald went on to finish third at the Dubai World Championship and take the Race to Dubai title ahead of McIlroy. His excellent consistency all year brought 20 top-ten finishes from 27 tournaments, despite an emotional finale to the year that saw the birth of his second daughter, Sophia, and the death of his father, Colin.
Donald added: “It is a great feeling being given any award but to now be able to add the Golf Writers Award to that of the PGA Tour Player of the Year and the European Tour Race to Dubai Golfer of the Year, is something really special and something I will cherish. I look forward to actually receiving the award from the AGW in person and displaying it proudly on my mantelpiece at home.”
Donald will receive the trophy at the Golf Writers Dinner during the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes in July. The Golf Writers Trophy is the oldest of the annual awards, dating back to 1951, and, uniquely, takes into account both individual and team performances by European golfers.
Bill Elliott, chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “We received a record number of votes this year which reflects the range of outstanding achievements by European golfers in 2011. This has been an extraordinary year and left members with an extremely difficult task in assessing their first, second and third place votes.
“Darren Clarke’s triumph at the Open Championship was one of the most popular and emotional victories ever seen, while Rory McIlroy is the most exciting talent in the game whose US Open win was the single most impressive performance of the year.
“But what Luke Donald has achieved over the whole season has been nothing less than superb. He is a class act on the course, but also off it, and he thoroughly deserves all the accolades he has received.
“Personally, I am delighted the Solheim Cup team featured strongly in the voting, which perhaps reflects my own view that their thrilling last-gasp victory was not just the most exciting golf of the year but the one of the best finishes to a team event in the history of the game.”
The Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team finished fifth in the poll, while there were also votes for the GB&I captain Nigel Edwards; the European captain Nicholas; Solheim stars Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew and Caroline Hedwall; Tom Lewis, the leading amateur at the Open Championship and a winner of his third tournament on the European Tour; Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Alvaro Quiros.