DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy is a more talented golfer than 14-times major winner Tiger Woods, said world number one Luke Donald on the eve of his Dubai World Championship showdown with the young Northern Irishman.
“Tiger’s work ethic has always been tremendous, and his mindset as well,” Donald told reporters on Wednesday. “But I think Rory has more pure talent.
“I have always said that, of the guys I’ve played with, Rory has the most talent. I see him winning lots of tournaments and lots of majors.”
Donald, bidding to become the first player to win the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic, leads second-placed McIlroy by more than $1 million going into the final European Tour event of the season in Dubai.
The Englishman needs to finish in the top eight this week to guarantee ending the campaign as European number one for the first time in his career but he seemed almost as keen to laud McIlroy’s skills as he was to celebrate his own achievements.
“Rory showed the world how great he can be when he won the U.S. Open,” said Donald, who clinched the U.S. PGA Tour’s money-list crown in October.
“That was an unbelievable way to play in a major event and finish it off like he did,” he added, referring to the 22-year-old Northern Irishman’s runaway eight-shot victory in Maryland in June.
“He’s young and has a great future ahead of him.”
Birthday boy Donald, who turned 34 on Wednesday, has been at the top of the world rankings for 27 consecutive weeks and he said he was proud of his performances in 2011.
“I’ve had a tremendous year, winning four times, and being very consistent in all of the other tournaments,” he added.
“There’s no way you can have a chance of winning both money-lists unless you are playing at a high level throughout the year. It has obviously been very satisfying and something I am very proud of.”
Donald, however, has also experienced some ups and downs off the course.
“I had five weeks off recently after my dad passed away,” he said. “It happened a few days before my second daughter was born so it was a wide range of emotions.
“I lost a good friend in my dad and someone that introduced me to the game. Losing him was very sad and something you can’t ever prepare for.”
Editing by Patrick Johnston