Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The riches of Croesus. An MBE. Sponsors queuing up for your endorsements. A seat in the Royal Box at Wimbledon. Lunch with Kylie Minogue (even if she doesn't know who you are!). Yes, there are many rewards for being the best golfer on earth. But a major title is not one of them.
Just ask Luke Donald. The Englishman has been at the top of golf’s world rankings for a total of 52 weeks, and even if that period of supremacy has been accumulated over four separate spells it still adds up to a whole year of being the undisputed No 1 player on the planet. But he has never finished better than third in a major.
And nor would you say that he has been getting closer with every passing year. His two third places were at the 2005 Masters and the 2006 PGA Championship. His status as the best player never to win a major is established beyond all reasonable doubt. Only Lee Westwood comes close.
Down the years, Donald has fielded questions about his majors record with the same sort of calm precision he displays with a mid-iron in his hands. However, speaking ahead of his defence of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title he won at Castle Stuart last year, the 34 year-old opened up as he has rarely done before, admitting that his record owes a lot to the pressure he has been putting on himself in his effort to break his duck.
I’ve realised it for a while,” Donald said. “I’ve understood that for probably a couple of years. I know it’s a difference in myself. I get a little bit more agitated, a little bit more anxious.”
Just a little bit? A year ago, in his final round here at Castle Stuart, Donald produced a display that came close to golfing perfection. Water sloshed across the course, but Donald appeared to be walking on it as he closed out with a 63. Yet a few days later he was dumped out of the Open at Royal St George’s, missing the cut by three shots.
Colin Montgomerie managed to finish second at five major championships. Even Westwood has been a runner-up twice. Donald’s record makes dismal reading. In the 35 majors he has contested he has missed the cut 12 times. And he has saved his worst of all for the Open, failing to get past halfway six times while finishing in the top 10 just once.
Donald is 18/1 to win at Lytham next week. For the world’s top player those ought to be generous odds, but given his record they actually look pretty miserly.
Yet the Lancashire links is probably better suited than any other course on the Open rota to the kind of game Donald plays. You have to plot your way round Lytham, and Donald is his sport’s ultimate cartographer.
Donald last played there in 2001, just a month before he turned professional after that year’s Walker Cup. His tie for 47th that year seemed far from impressive, but it acquired a kind of gloss as he missed the cut in three of his next four Open appearances. So does he think the Royal Lytham course suits him too?
The question brings an enigmatic smile.
“I’ve played on shorter courses, wider courses, narrow courses, long courses. I’ve been successful in a variety of places. It just comes down to being mentally in the right position, feeling physically good about your game and having he confidence to go out and do it."



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