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Rory McIlroy more talented than Tiger Woods, says Luke Donald

By Mark Garrod

Tiger Woods had the 93rd win of his career on Sunday and may yet go on to beat the record 18 majors of Jack Nicklaus - but he has never had the talent of Rory McIlroy.

That at least is the opinion of world number one Luke Donald, who believes "the sky is the limit" for the 22-year-old Northern Irishman.

"Tiger's work ethic has always been tremendous and I think his mindset is what has separated himself from the field when he was really at the top of the game," Donald said.

"But in terms of talent, I think Rory has more. Of the guys I've played with out here on Tour Rory has the most.

"I see him winning lots of tournaments and lots of majors."

It would make Donald a happy man, however, if US Open champion McIlroy does not add the Dubai World Championship at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course this week.

The world's top two go head-to-head in the first round, with the European Tour money list crown on the line.

McIlroy is more than £680,000 behind, but should he repeat his Hong Kong Open victory on Sunday Donald will have to finish in the top nine to hold him off.

Most expect that to happen. Donald has had 19 top 10s in 25 starts this year and is in the position he is despite playing six fewer events than McIlroy.

The English star, 34 today, makes no secret of how much it would mean to him to become the first player "officially" to top the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

Even he feels the need to insert the word "officially" because Woods has actually done it six times in his career, but because he was not actually a European Tour member his name does not appear on the Harry Vardon Trophy.

"If it all works out Sunday it will be my biggest accomplishment," said Donald, who grabbed the PGA Tour title in October by winning their last counting event when nothing less than second place would do.

"It's just history. No-one's officially done it ever before and I think that's pretty amazing."

After his win in Florida, achieved with a back-nine 30 that started with six successive birdies, Donald's father died suddenly and then his wife Diane gave birth to their second daughter just a few days later.

He returned to action only last week and was happy enough to come seventh out of 12 at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.

"It's a great tournament with a great field (Lee Westwood won it for the second year running), but it was an opportunity for me to play four rounds under a competitive situation," Donald added.

"It was really to find a little bit of timing and rhythm and that's what I kind of used it as. It served its purpose, I felt like it was a good week for me in terms of shaking off some rust."

The title race would have been over if McIlroy had been outside the top two in Hong Kong, but Donald was not surprised to learn the youngster had won.

"It would be nice to be sitting on the beach right now with a cocktail in my hand and not worrying about it too much, but there's nothing really easy in life," Donald said.

"It's made me more focused this week and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

On his father's death he added: "When someone leaves you you're always reminded of them in certain ways.

"I'm sure he'll be there with me. I'm not sure if I'll specifically try to think about my father (during the tournament), but it would be nice to win this one for him.

"My dad brought me into the game. We didn't play a lot, but he would take me out sometimes, even mornings before school at like 7am for a quick nine holes, and I have fond memories of that.

"He didn't play a lot, but his big line was he taught me everything he knew. He always took full credit for my success.

"His passing was unexpected and to happen a few days before my second daughter was born was a wide range of emotions.

"It was something you can't ever prepare for and it was very, very sad. I lost a good friend and someone that I think brought me up in a proper way.

"He was never as concerned about my golf as he was bringing me up as a decent person with good morals and someone that set a good example.

"It was very, very tough, but the birth did spread a little grace on the situation."

Donald, who has revealed that both his parents have suffered from depression, has been at the top of the world rankings since beating previous incumbent Westwood in a BMW PGA Championship play-off at Wentworth in May.

Like Westwood, he is still without a major and while without one there will probably always be critics.

"They make me stronger to be honest. Every time someone says I can't do a thing it just makes me work harder," Donald said.

"Getting to number one and not winning a major is almost harder to do and quite a feat. There's more points in majors and if you win one you really jump up.

"I think I'm a different player this year because of all the victories (two in America, two in Europe). Hopefully I can bring that game to the majors."

Donald admits there was a time when he was asked if he wanted to be number one and said no because he had witnessed "Tigermania".

After Westwood took over late last year, though, Donald took a different view.

"I kind of saw that really his life had not changed too much. It's nice in a way my profile isn't higher - in my private life I can do whatever I need and not get too bothered.

"Maybe it's just something to do with my personality. I just go about my business, I'm not too outspoken, I'm not too controversial and I don't really believe in trying to hype up the crowd."

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