LOS ANGELES (AP) - Luke Donald was on the practice range at Riviera before dawn Wednesday, so dark that only temporary floodlights allowed him to see where the ball was going.
It was a snapshot of the perks that come with being No. 1 in the world, and what got him there.
The best player gets his choice of tee times for the pro-am, and the early spots go first. Along with being No. 1 in the world, Donald sits atop both the PGA Tour and European Tour money lists, the first player ever to lead the two biggest tours.
As for the work ethic? Getting to the top wasn’t an accident.
“I think the best part of being No. 1 is knowing that my best golf is good enough to get me to that No. 1 spot, just from a confidence and mental standpoint,” Donald said. “That’s gratifying to know that the hard work is paying off.”
The hardest part might be the encore.
Donald is coming off a year he won’t ever forget, and it all began at Riviera with a round he would like to erase from his memory. In his first event, he shot a 79 in the second round to miss the cut.
Toward the end of his season, he had won a career-best four times, including the most exciting finish this side of a major when he birdied six straight holes to start the back nine at Disney and closed with a 64 for a two-shot victory. It gave him the double money title, and was enough to make him a landslide winner of PGA Tour player of the year.
Off the course was joy and grief.
His father, Colin, died of heart failure just a few days before Donald’s wife gave birth to their second daughter.
“Obviously, a decent amount of my work had already been done,” Donald said. “I’d had a great season up until that point. And in a way, those couple weeks were very tough. I think the birth of my second daughter helped shed a little bit of grace on the whole situation. It helped with the passing of my father. And I think I came out of it a stronger person with a little bit more perspective.”
His father rarely went to golf tournaments. He was proud of his son more as a person than just a golfer. The last two years had been a struggle, as his father went from double knee replacement to an addiction to pain killers, then bouts of depression.
One moment stands out for Donald, and he wasn’t even there.
He was at Wentworth, fighting a flawed swing to stay in the hunt long enough to get into a playoff with Lee Westwood, beat him on the first extra hole and replace him as No. 1 in the world.
Donald’s brother, Christian, was home that weekend with their father, watching it unfold on television.