Luke Donald Wins PGA Tour’s Player of Year Award in First for U.K. Golfer

Luke Donald became the first British golfer to win the U.S. PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award after topping the money lists on both the American and European circuits, the only player to achieve the feat.

Keegan Bradley was named Rookie of the Year after he won the U.S. PGA Championship in his debut at one of the sport’s four major tournaments.

Donald, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, had two wins on the PGA Tour this year and finished with $6.7 million in on-course winnings. A third-place finish at the Dubai World Championship three days ago also ensured that he finished atop the European Tour’s Order of Merit with 5.3 million euros ($7 million) in prize money.

“It’s not easy playing both tours and traveling as much as I have done but certainly it’s worthwhile when you can come out and win both money lists,” Donald told reporters in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Masters starting tomorrow. “In 2012 my schedule will be very similar. I’ll concentrate on both tours.”

The Player of the Year award is intended to focus on the golfer who does best on the U.S. Tour, with voting limited to members of the circuit.

During 2011, the 34-year-old Donald went 449 holes without a three-putt green, a span of 3 1/2 months. The Englishman ranked first in scoring average, putting and final-round scoring average on the U.S. Tour. By contrast, he was 127th in total driving, 147th in driving distance and 57th in accuracy from the tee, up from 120th in 2010.

Long-Game Improvement

“I’ve been pretty consistent in my career mostly based on a great short game,” Donald said. “This year I think I’ve improved on my long game, which was lacking for a while. That’s been the difference between being a good player and having the great year that I’ve had.”

This is the third straight time the title has gone to a golfer who didn’t win one of the major tournaments. After Tiger Woods won for a 10th time in 2009, Jim Furyk collected the accolade last year.

“I certainly wouldn’t change my career for just one major,” Donald said. “I would love to win one, I would love to have it all. That’s obviously the thing that’s missing from my resume and I’ll be working hard next year to try and correct that.”

Voting Ballots

Ballots for the award went out to PGA Tour players the first week of November, two weeks after Donald won the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic with a final-round 8-under-par 64. Vote totals weren’t disclosed in a statement released yesterday by the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida-based tour, the world’s richest golf circuit.

The tour delayed mailing the voting ballots to its players until after the World Golf Championships event in China. The 2010 tournament, which counts as an official event for PGA Tour members, was played a week before the tour’s Florida finale.

Three Americans with two victories each -- Bradley, Nick Watney and Mark Wilson -- all competed in China, giving them a chance to surpass Donald’s two U.S. tour victories.

Donald, who also won the World Golf Championships match- play event in February to go with 14 top-10 finishes, withdrew from the China event because of the birth of his second child. Bradley finished 16th, Watney 33rd and Wilson 56th.

Donald graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 2001 with a degree in art theory and practice, according to the school’s website. He lives in Evanston, a Chicago suburb, and has been a U.S. Tour member since 2002.

Bradley, 25, was named the top rookie after finishing the year with four wins, including his playoff victory at the PGA Championship, the season’s final major tournament.

Bradley also won the Byron Nelson Championship in a playoff and earned unofficial wins at the PGA Grand Slam and the Franklin Templeton Shootout, where he teamed with fellow rookie Brendan Steele.

Bradley had four top-10 finishes and led all rookies with $3.8 million in winnings, 13th among all players.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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