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Newsmaker of the year: No. 5: Luke Donald

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In today’s 140-character age, poignant messages can be delivered in short bursts and at any moment.

One example happened recently when Luke Donald – known as @LukeDonald in the Twitterverse – offered up the following news via social media: “Always nice to wake up and see you've been given another award.”

Ho-hum. Just another day in the life of Donald.

He went on to explain that he had just learned he was voted European Tour Player of the Year, which should only come as a surprise to any golf fan who has spent the past 12 months in an extended slumber, considering he also took home the PGA Tour equivalent earlier in the week.

To call 2011 a “breakout season” for Donald is a severe understatement. Despite previously competing on three Ryder Cup teams and winning multiple times on each of the game’s highest levels, his relevance within the game’s elite jumped more than a few notches – and for more than a few reasons. The 34-year-old wrested away the world’s No. 1 ranking from all other competitors while becoming the first player ever to finish atop the money lists of both the PGA and European tours while an official member of each one.

“It's not easy to be a member of both tours and do what I've done,” he said. “There's only really a handful of people that do it, so obviously there's a limited number of people that can do it in any one year. To be the first is very special, and I think it's probably my greatest achievement this year.”

Donald’s supremacy on the U.S.-based money list was particularly impressive. Needing a victory at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic to claim the title, he not only committed to a tournament he normally wouldn’t have played, but ran away from the pack on Sunday’s back nine to earn exactly what he sought.

His performance, though, was less about world domination than unwavering consistency. In 19 starts in PGA Tour-sanctioned events, he made the cut 17 times, posting 14 top-10s, six top-threes and two wins. In 13 starts in Euro Tour-sanctioned events, he made the cut 12 times, posting 10 top-10s, six top-threes and three wins. (Seven of his appearances were co-sanctioned by both circuits, including his victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.)

Perhaps the most profound part of Donald’s accomplishments is the fact that he isn’t the new-age, bomb-and-gouge model of player who has used technology and fitness to overpower courses in recent years. He not only isn’t the longest hitter off the tee, he isn’t the best ball-striker, either; instead, he relies on good ol’ fashioned ingenuity and guile with the short game to produce such lofty results.

“I think in the last 10 or 20 years, the power game has really taken control of golf, but I think I've been a little bit of a breath of fresh air knowing that that's not the only way you can be successful, through good short game, good putting, managing your game, that you can be successful in other ways,” said Donald, who at one point went more than 500 holes on the PGA Tour without a three-putt. “I think I've proven that quite considerably this year.”

He’s also proven himself to be one of the biggest newsmakers. There’s no signs of slowing down in 2012, either.