By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Luke Donald says he now faces much greater expectations after rising to world number one during a stellar 2011 campaign but that is a challenge he is entirely happy to meet.
The United States-based Briton took over at the top of the rankings on May 30 and went on to win four times worldwide last year, including twice on the PGA Tour.
"It's gratifying to know that the hard work is paying off. The worst part? I suppose the slight added burden of expectation but I felt like I've dealt with that pretty well so far.
"I'm excited to start a new year," the Englishman said. "I'm hoping to do something very similar to last year and even build on it. I'm very excited about my game."
Donald, whose brilliant short game has helped him become golf's most consistent player, believes he has adjusted smoothly to being in the spotlight as world number one.
"When Lee Westwood got to the No. 1 ranking, I was reasonably friendly with Lee and saw that his life really didn't change that much," Donald said of his compatriot who ended Tiger Woods's five-year reign at the top in November 2010.
"I felt more comfortable that if I was to ever get there, then a similar thing would happen with me. Since getting to No. 1 in May, I've been able to hold on to it and I've felt very comfortable about it.
"I've had some success these last eight months as world No. 1, and I enjoy it. I've always focused on trying to put myself into contention, give myself chances to win tournaments and win majors, and the ranking is just a process of some good play."
Asked whether he had been viewed in a new light by his peers since taking over at the top, Donald replied: "The only thing that might have changed perceptions is the fact that I was able to get to No. 1 not being a modern day power player.
"Perhaps that might have changed people's perspective on how they practise and what they need to work on. I've obviously done a great job with being very proficient with the short game.
"That can get you a long way. I certainly am not the best ball striker and I'm not the best off the tee but, with a good short game, I was able to get to the top of the world rankings."
Donald, who languished in 147th place in the 2011 PGA Tour's driving distance charts with an average drive of 284.1 yards, plans to continue splitting his playing schedule between Europe and the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
"As a European and someone who wants to play Ryder Cup, I play both tours," the 34-year-old said. "At some point I would love to play one year just concentrating on one tour just to see how I do.
"But that's probably never going to happen because of my love for the Ryder Cup. I feel allegiance to both tours."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)