Modest Donald fights back
Luke Donald is a naturally modest and understated man. You can tell this by the way he prefaces statements with words and statements like "pretty", "a little bit" and "somewhat."
He has a humble, accommodating demeanour that often hides fierce ambition and on occasion great disappointment if a tournament has just slipped from his grasp.
But where he becomes unequivocal is when he talks of his achievement in making himself the best golfer on the planet because there are some who doubt his credentials to be considered the world's number one.
Many of those critics are Americans who point to the lack of a major title to Donald's name or even a strokeplay win on the PGA Tour for five years.
These are people for whom Wentworth's PGA Championship or the Scottish Open are not on the radar, even if the trophies from both prestige events are on the Donald mantlepiece.
"I don't know how anyone can argue against the world rankings system," Donald told BBC Sport in an exclusive interview at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week.
Donald has been by far the most consistent golfer over the past two years
"I've played better than anyone else over a two-year period and no one has been as consistent as I have. I've beaten the top players week in week out and other than maybe one or two guys I've earned double the amount of points than most players," he added.
"Obviously it has been a great year and I'm not only at the top of the world, I'm increasing my lead as well."
Donald's share of third place at the Tour Championship was just one shot out of the play-off won by Bill Haas. It was his 13th top-10 finish in 18 starts on the PGA Tour and he was shot away from the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot.
This has been interpreted in some quarters as yet more evidence that he lacks the nerve to close out big titles.
The fact is though that the more you challenge the more you can come under scrutiny for not winning. It is almost as though you are better off missing cuts when you don't win because absurdly you will attract less criticism.
With his astonishing run of high finishes on both sides of the Atlantic, the 33-year-old from High Wycombe beats more players more regularly than any other golfer and this is accurately reflected by the world rankings.
"He's had a phenomenally consistent year," admitted Lee Westwood, the man Donald overtook at the top of the rankings. "He's won three times which is obviously very good and they were big events, every time you turn on the telly he's in the top five, not just top tens.
"While he's not the longest hitter he manages his game so well and this year he's turned himself into the best putter in the world. Every time he stands over it, it has a chance," Westwood added.
The first of Donald's three titles this year was the WGC Matchplay in Tucson, Arizona in February. A week earlier he had emerged from an eleven-week break and missed the cut in Los Angeles. "I was a little bit match rusty, I suppose," he understated.
After beating Martin Kaymer in the final of the matchplay Donald talked about "a monkey off his back" because it ended a lengthy win drought on America soil. The victory was also vindication for all the hard work that had gone on in the prior weeks he had taken away from the Tour.
"Looking back it was a little bit of a risk but in hindsight it really paid off. It's not easy watching guys play for eight weeks, picking up points and getting ahead on the money lists. But I had a plan and I stuck to it," said the man who now heads the money lists in both America and Europe.
There was one particularly hard week that proved the bedrock of this stellar year. Donald met up with his long time swing coach Pat Goss and performance expert Dave Alred (he of Johnny Wilkinson fame and ball-swapping infamy) to establish the foundations for the season.
"We were getting up early and finishing late," Donald recalled. "Doing a lot of working out, all kinds of stuff and it was very rewarding. I wanted to push myself to see how far I could go, how much practice I could do, what I could accomplish.
"I proved to myself that I've got a lot more in me than I actually thought."
Alred taught Donald to think like an assassin, to have a "no mercy" approach to the game that was so evident as he dispatched his opponents at the matchplay and Westwood in the play-off for the PGA at Wentworth in May.
So is he a natural assassin? "It doesn't quite go hand in hand with my character, I'm a little more soft spoken than an assassin might be," Donald said. "But certainly Dave has brought that side out of me and made me a bit more strong in the way that I think and the work ethic I put in."
When Donald just missed out at the Tour Championship television showed him happily signing autographs for waiting fans. He didn't look crushed by just missing out on another big title, but looks can deceive.
"I was very down. I had a great year and to be so close and work so hard and not quite get the job done is very disappointing."
He is also frustrated that he has yet to land a major. "The goal at the start of the year was to contend in all four. I contended in two which is an improvement but it isn't quite what I wanted.
"If there is anything disappointing about this year it is probably the majors," he added.
Certainly in a year when Rory McIlroy romped to the US Open and Darren Clarke claimed his emotional Open Championship it is easy to see why Donald's achievements have been overshadowed.
"I'm not one that cries out for recognition but I've had a great year. Doing it by being a member of both tours is not easy. Out of the few guys who are members of both tours I was the only one who made it to the Tour Championship.
"So yes there are a few times where I feel a little bit forgotten but I'll keep pressing on and let my clubs do the talking."
They've certainly been eloquent this year and Donald has assumed a seemingly unshakable air of confidence. He will become a father for the second time in the next month or so and believes there is no limit to what he can achieve as a golfer.
"You know, we always talk about peaking for the majors and the big events," he says. "I feel like if I keep improving in the way that I am, I'm not going to need to peak to win. My golf is going to be good enough no matter what."
With such unequivocal confidence borne out of such results, it is very hard not to believe the man who is already the best golfer in the world.