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“He looked in Chris’ eye, and it was a proud moment,” Donald said. “He’s always been proud and supportive, more proud of the person I turned into.”

Donald opened his season in Abu Dhabi with a tie for 48th, the first time since August that he did not finish among the top 12. That’s still better than missing the cut, as he did at the Northern Trust Open a year ago.

Riviera is where Donald comes full circle.

He leads a field at the Northern Trust Open that features two-time winner Phil Mickelson, coming off his six-shot comeback to win last week at Pebble Beach; a pair of Aussies in Jason Day and Adam Scott, who are playing the PGA Tour for the first time this year; and Padraig Harrington, who started to show some long lost form at Pebble Beach.

Also playing is Sergio Garcia, a regular partner of Donald in the Ryder Cup. Garcia once talked about winning money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, and he was impressed _ as was most everyone _ that Donald got it done.

“Very remarkable,” Garcia said. “It’s never really been done by a guy that is a member of both tours, so it shows you how difficult it is to do it. For a guy like Luke to be able to do it, as well as No. 1, it was great to see.”

Donald finally is getting the respect for his feats, especially his world ranking.

Westwood got the same questions, mostly from an American audience _ how can a guy be No. 1 without ever winning a major? Those questions mainly were born out of comparisons to Tiger Woods, who had been No. 1 for 10 years of his career, and who won majors with regularity. The world ranking is about accumulating points, and no one was more consistent than Donald.

By the end of the year, there were no questions about who was No. 1 in the world.

“I think the way in which I won in Disney helped, and winning both money titles,” Donald said. “People, especially my peers, realized what an accomplishment that was, playing a limited schedule and pulling off both money titles. I think I went up in the estimation of my peers.”

As for the majors?

That’s a priority.

The Masters is two months away, and Donald is building toward that. He’ll play the next two weeks, including his first title defense at the Match Play Championship, then play consecutive weeks in Florida at Doral and Tampa.

Donald talks about a strong will to succeed, and there’s no reason to think that won’t apply during the four biggest weeks of the year.

“I feel like my game is good enough right now to win majors,” Donald said. “I don’t feel like there’s a huge weakness. If I can win four times in a year, I should be able to win a major. There are still things I can improve on to give myself better opportunities.”