Byline: DEREK LAWRENSON reports from Dubai
AFTER a month for Luke Donald filled with magic and loss came a press conference yesterday punctuated with dignity and eloquence.
For his father, Colin, who died suddenly four weeks ago, there was a moving tribute that reminded a room full of writers of the awesome power of the spoken word. To his great rival, Rory McIlroy, he handed the ultimate accolade, declaring him more talented than Tiger Woods.
The loss of a parent and the birth of a daughter, all in the space of four days, would be enough to shape anyone and, in Donald, we found a man up to the challenge of articulating the great joy and sadness of life.
Donald will never make headlines like some or stir controversy like others. But if you like your heroes stamped with a touch of obvious intelligence and class, tip your hat in the direction of the underrated and frequently overlooked Englishman.
Donald chose the occasion of his 34th birthday to give his most revealing interview yet, a masterclass in saying the right thing that made a mockery of his image as the quiet man of the game.
How difficult it must be to sit on a podium and talk about a recent family bereavement. But Donald put a room at ease by drawing upon the inner strength instilled in him by his father.
He was brave enough on Twitter to acknowledge that members of his family had suffered from depression and here he revealed that both his parents had been weighed down during their lives by that horrible affliction.
It was Colin Donald, the son of a scratch golfer, who introduced Luke to the game when he was a young boy, on family holidays in La Manga in Spain.
'His sudden passing, a few days before my second daughter was born, brought a wide range of emotions you could never prepare for and it was very sad,' he said.
'I lost a good friend in my dad and someone who I think brought me up in a proper way. He was never as concerned about my golf as he was in bringing me up as a decent person, with good morals and to be someone who can set a good example.
'I'll remember him for teaching me to treat people as I would like to be treated myself.
'Then my second daughter was born and that helped to spread a little grace on the situation. It was not easy but I was able to concentrate my efforts on a new life and my kids and family. It made everything a bit closer.' Over the years, we've seen world Nos 1 and 2 needle each other, believing their status precluded any chance of friendship before becoming closer later in life. There was Tiger and Phil, Seve and Langer, even Jack and Arnie from way back. Trust the two nice guys who lead the list at present not to see it that way.
In preparation for life in America next year, McIlroy has joined the same Bear's club in south Florida where Donald spends long hours practising his art.
'Rory's a good guy, so I'm not going to stop liking him just because he's the world No 2,' said Donald. 'We certainly don't want to lose to each other on the course but, away from it, we are friends and I could see us becoming closer friends in the years to come.' Donald was soundly beaten by Tiger at his intimidating best in the final round of the 2006 US PGA Championship, so ranking McIlroy still higher in terms of natural talent carries particular weight.