Abu Dhabi winner Jamie Donaldson can fight for European Ryder Cup spot in 2014, says Rob Lee
Rob Lee says the next five years could be extremely fruitful for Abu Dhabi king Jamie Donaldson.
Last Updated: 22/01/13 5:08pm
But the Welshman, 37, then won the Irish Open in July 2012 to claim his first European Tour title at the 255th attempt and, on Sunday, scooped the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship crown by a stroke from Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Donaldson, who tied for seventh-place at August's USPGA Championship with Peter Hanson, Steve Stricker and Blake Adams, has now risen to 29th in the world rankings and secured a precious spot in April's US Masters.
The Pontypridd-born player has not always been a contender throughout his career, but I think he could do some real damage over the next five years as your mid-to-late thirties is your golfing prime-time, despite young guns likes Rory McIlroy and Matteo Manassero suggesting otherwise.
Donaldson will take huge confidence from his win in Abu Dhabi as he prevailed in such great style, beating a field containing so many of the best players in the game, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Jamie has always been a pretty good swinger of the ball but he appears to have his whole game in fine fettle now, perhaps due to being coached by Matt Belsham, who also aids Robert Rock, the 2012 Abu Dhabi victor.
What impressed me especially last week, though, was Donaldson's long putting; when Luke Donald topped the money list on both sides of the Atlantic during the 2011 season, I never saw anyone roll in more 25-foot putts and Donaldson seems to have the same gift.
Having that ability means you can pick up shots all over the place and Jamie certainly did that during the final round in the United Arab Emirates; he stayed patient early on and then banged in birdies at 9, 11, 14 and 15.
If Donaldson keeps swinging and putting like he is I think he can have a really good go at getting into the 2014 Ryder Cup team, while he will also fancy his chances of making an impression at the Masters this spring.
However, you generally have to learn Augusta and go there a few times before it all clicks and, as this will be Jamie's first Masters appearance, he is probably going to need a quantum accelerator to learn enough about the Georgian course's nuances with just four days competitive play on it.
Rose led in Abu Dhabi heading into the last day but a one-under round of 71 and a one-over-par score for the final three holes did for him, meaning he had to settle for a share of second place.
The Englishman, who won the WGC-Cadillac Championship last March, will feel like it was an opportunity missed, but he is becoming a feature around the top of leaderboards now and showing that he is world number four for a reason.
Olesen, meanwhile, looks the real deal and I have no doubt that he will make a massive breakthrough in 2013; he has the ball-striking ability, heart and physique to go far.
I also the like the cut of the 23-year-old's jib; he plays with a strut, shows terrific body language around the course and seemed genuinely dissatisfied with coming second last week, which shows you that he has designs on being nothing less than winner.
I did, however, think the Abu Dhabi title was going to be David Howell's on Sunday after he took the lead at the 10th hole, so I couldn't quite believe it when the former Ryder Cup player four-putted the 13th because he is usually world class on putts from six feet.
Howell, once a part of the world's top 10, is definitely on the up, though, and so are former US Open titlist Michael Campbell and ex- Players Champion Henrik Stenson, who finished 17th and 23rd respectively in the UAE.
McIlroy missed the cut and while the naysayers will tell you that is because of his new Nike equipment, it wasn't; Olesen had 14 new clubs in his bag and it didn't hold him back, did it?
Rory just showed a bit of rust having not played for so long and he will be back in the groove soon, but I would be slightly more concerned if I was Woods, who also failed the make the weekend after picking up a two-shot penalty.
I have never seen the American duff as many tee shots as he did last week and he has a bit of work to do.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
Commercialbank Qatar Masters: There is a quality field lined-up for this event in Doha, including the likes of Rose, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Dufner, but Henrik Stenson, who finished runner-up here in 2005, '08 and '09, is starting to get the juice back and he is my tip at 20/1 with Sky Bet.
Farmers Insurance Open: It will be interesting to see how much Tiger, a six-time winner of this tournament, can improve in a week, while I am also looking forward to seeing how Brandt Snedeker and Kyle Stanley, first and second respectively last year, fare. I will go for 14/1 shot Dustin Johnson, though, as I reckon his long driving will help him greatly at Torrey Pines.