Donald and Simpson set for dual Disney showdown
Florida: This week`s season-ending Disney Classic offers alluring incentives to every player in the field but the most intriguing apply only to British world number one Luke Donald and American Webb Simpson.
Donald and Simpson will tee off in Thursday`s opening round at Lake Buena Vista in Florida in a head-to-head battle for the PGA Tour`s money list title with player of the year honours perhaps also on the line.
Simpson leads Donald by USD 363,029 (230,000 pounds) going into the season finale and organisers have added extra spice to their hotly anticipated duel by pairing the two players together for the first two rounds.
"That was only the natural pairing, so I`m look forward to playing against him," Donald told reporters.
"It will be nice to keep an eye on what he`s doing. I`m here obviously to win the money title, and I`m probably going to need to win (the tournament) to do that."
Donald, the most consistent player in the game over the last 12 months, only committed to this week`s event when he knew his bid for the PGA Tour money title was under threat.
"Everyone knows why I`m here, looking forward to try and win possibly both money lists," said the 33-year-old Englishman. "I wanted to make a concerted effort to do that."
Donald, who has recorded 13 top-10s in 18 appearances on the PGA Tour this season, leads Rory McIlroy by just over 1.3 million euros in the European Tour`s Race to Dubai.
Also uppermost in his mind this week is the prospect of being voted PGA Tour player of the year by his peers for the first time.
However, that race is a keenly contested one with Donald, Simpson and Americans Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson all in contention.
Of those seven, Donald is the only one without two victories on the U.S. circuit this season, though he has triumphed three times worldwide during 2011.
"It`s a tricky one, player of the year," he said. "It`s obviously subjective on what the players think. The players will consider a few things outside of the money (list) ... not just wins but the Vardon Trophy and the stroke average.”
"I guess I`m trying to toot my own horn a little bit, but the domination in the world rankings and how many points I`ve earned this year.”
"I`ve won three times around the world; only once in the U.S.," added Donald, who clinched his third PGA Tour title at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.”
"Hopefully these are things that will be considered."
Simpson has won twice on the PGA Tour in his last six starts and, along with PGA Championship winner Bradley, is Donald`s main challenger for player of the year.
"Whatever happens we`re going to be happy, but we do want to finish strong and try to have a clean sweep," Simpson said of winning this week`s event, the money list title and player of the year honours. "It would be awesome."
While Simpson has been the hottest player on the PGA Tour over the last two months with his victories at the Wyndham Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship, he applauded Donald`s form worldwide.
"For all practical purposes -- and I think most guys would agree -- he is the best player in the world," the 26-year-old American said.
"To have the success he`s had winning on both tours, being on top of the European Tour money list and on top of the PGA Tour money list most of year is really incredible."
While most eyes will be focussed on Simpson and Donald this week, the Disney is also the last-chance saloon for players yet to secure their full playing privileges for next year.
The top 125 on the season-ending money list secure full status for 2012 so this week will be a decisive one for Americans D.J. Trahan (123rd), Bobby Gates (124th), James Driscoll (125th), Bill Lunde (126th) and Bill Mayfair (127th).
American Robert Garrigus, a comfortable 56th in the money list, is back at Lake Buena Vista this week to defend the title he won last year by a commanding eight shots.