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Donald tries to pick up where he left off

Luke DonaldDonaldLast season’s best player -- or at least the most profitable -- both in the United States and Europe was Luke Donald, who will make his 2012 PGA Tour debut this weekend at the Northern Trust Open.

Donald also opened his PGA Tour season at Riviera Country Club last year. His play did not portend the season to come as he missed the cut after shooting a second-round 79.

Donald made history last season, winning the money title on both the PGA and European tours, despite playing fewer events than the players he was competing against for each tour’s title.

Donald played 19 PGA Tour events last season, pocketing $6.7 million. The runner-up for the money title, Webb Simpson, played 26 events and made $6.3 million.

Luke Donald
PGA Tour Ranks in 2011

Donald did this on the strength of 14 top-10 finishes, including four straight finishes of fourth or better to end the season. He also had a pair of PGA Tour wins, after only winning twice in his PGA Tour career entering the season, with none since the 2006 Honda Classic.

Overall, Donald had four worldwide wins last season, also capturing the European Tour money title despite playing just 13 events. Rory McIlroy, who played in six additional events, finished second.

In 13 European Tour starts last year, Donald finished 11th or better in 11 of them, with six finishes of third or better and three wins. His win in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship counted as both a European and PGA Tour victory.

The most important of those wins may have come at the BMW PGA Championship, where he defeated Lee Westwood in a playoff, taking control of the world’s No. 1 ranking. After the No. 1 spot had been held by Westwood and Martin Kaymer earlier in the year, it was Donald who would hold the top ranking for the rest of the year.

Strokes Gained – Putting
PGA TOUR Leaders in 2011

How did Donald achieve his success? The old golf saying held true, in that Donald putted for dough.

Strokes gained -- putting is a metric used to measure the true putting ability of a player, taking to account various distances and comparing a player’s performance on every green against the other players in the field. Donald has led the PGA Tour in the statistic in each of the past three years.

Donald's run of success and victories was even more impressive when you consider that from 2005 to '10, he had only two wins on the European and PGA tours combined, the 2006 Honda Classic and 2010 Madrid Masters.