World No. 1 Donald lets his game speak for him

By Doug FergusonJune 9, 2012, 10:17 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Luke Donald goes into the U.S. Open ranked No. 1 in the world, and to listen to the casual golf observer, that can only mean one thing.

There must be a better system.

Luke Donald?

He is not an imposing figure like Vijay Singh or Ernie Els. He doesn't have a personality that can take over the room like Greg Norman or Seve Ballesteros. He doesn't have 14 majors like Tiger Woods, or any majors at all, for that matter.

There is little about Donald that looks like the No. 1 golfer.

He just plays like it.

'There's always going to be people who look at my game and say, 'He's No. 1?' That's just the way is,' Donald said. 'Whether they do or not, I don't really focus on that. I focus on what I can control, and that's just working hard. But I think I'm forcing people to respect me now. It's getting to that point that I'm not going away.'

To look at the golf – and not just the golfer – there should be little question.

Donald has won six times in the last 18 months, more than any other player in the world. When his only option was winning, Donald birdied six straight holes to start the back nine Sunday at Disney, a clutch performance with historical significance. That win allowed him to become the first player to capture the money title on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

Even so, when U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy first went to No. 1 in March by winning the Honda Classic, there was a feeling the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland would stay there. Three times since then, Donald took it back, twice by winning.

Perhaps a U.S. Open title at Olympic Club would help change the perception. Or maybe not.

'I think the public wants a No. 1 like Phil (Mickelson), Tiger or Rory,' Stewart Cink said. 'Luke is a nice, unassuming guy. He gets it done with his putting, with his short game, with his wedges. That's not the dramatic stuff a lot of people want to see. They want to see the long ball. They want to see Tiger making dramatic putts.'

But is it the stuff Donald's peers wish they had?

'Shoot, yeah,' Cink said. 'The ones who play do, not the ones who watch. But that's why they're watching.'

What makes Donald's rise to No. 1 so remarkable is that for so many years, his performance was barely above ordinary – and perhaps that's why some people struggle to give him his full measure of respect.

Lee Westwood is the only other player to be No. 1 without ever having won a major. But he reached No. 4 in the world early in his career, he won the Order of Merit in Europe at age 27 and was seen as a potential threat for years to come until he was derailed by a slump.

That was never the case with Donald. For most of his career, he was regarded as a mild-mannered Englishman who won an NCAA title at Northwestern and majored in art.

This, however, is not the same Luke Donald.

'He was the same player for 10 years,' Geoff Ogilvy said. 'He made a slight improvement, as people do when they get older. But two years ago, he obviously made a conscious decision that, `I'm going to do things differently.' Whatever it was, it was a big difference. Because he's clearly the best player.'

The 34-year-old Donald began changing after he had to miss the second half of 2008 with a wrist injury, brought on by trying to hit the ball farther. In one of the tougher decisions, he decided to replace his brother as his caddie with John McLaren. Even more pivotal was bringing in Dave Alred, a performance guru from Britain who is famous for working with rugby players such as Jonny Wilkinson.

Wilkinson wanted Donald to be a killer on the golf course.

'I suppose I lacked a little ruthlessness,' Donald said. 'That was my nature, coming from England. Dave wants me to be the hunter, not the fisherman. He talks about how a fisherman throws it out there and hopes to get a fish. A hunter goes out there and he's going to go straight between your eyes. That's the vibe and feel Dave is after.

'He wants me to be that assassin,' Donald said, pausing to smile. 'And I'm trying hard for him.'

McLaren recalls the time years ago, before he went to work as his caddie, when he was in Chicago and stayed at Donald's apartment. He heard him talk about his aspirations, perhaps one day being No. 1 in the world.

'I remember thinking it was ambitious, to say the least,' McLaren said. 'The game we know that Tiger Woods created, you wouldn't think someone of Luke's athletic proportions could be No. 1. We're so used to the very best in any sport being big characters, big athletes. I always thought he'd be up against that.'

But when he first caddied for Donald in 2010, he noticed a different player, a different person.

'I suppose the biggest shock for me was how tough he is,' McLaren said. 'He can be quite cutting at times. When we first started, I thought, `Hmm, you've got a streak in you I didn't know you had.' I always thought he was very unassuming. Luke is fiercely competitive. He hides it well by being very English. He's well educated, well brought up. The fire burns, he just doesn't let anyone know it.'

McLaren got another glimpse of that when McIlroy went to No. 1 at the Honda Classic, and Donald became yesterday's news. It was natural for attention to shift to McIlroy, especially after his record-setting win at the U.S. Open the previous summer at Congressional. Then, McIlroy came out of nowhere with a 65-67 weekend at Doral and nearly won a World Golf Championship. This was McIlroy's time.

The next week, Donald shot 66 at Innisbrook and hit a clutch shot out of the rough to win a playoff.

He was right back at No. 1.

'Rory goes and wins the U.S. Open by eight shots, and everyone stopped talking about Luke,' Ogilvy said. 'And he was like, `Hold on, here I am,' and he goes and wins another tournament. And he's been doing that for 12 months, hasn't he? Every time the question has been asked, he's answered it.'

One major question remains.

Donald made a strong bid at the Masters last year and tied for fourth. That's as late in the final round as he has ever contended in a major. He has shown mettle at other tournaments, such as beating Westwood at Wentworth in a playoff last year to first get to No. 1, closing with 64 at Disney in a rare do-or-die moment in golf. His win at the Match Play Championship last year remains the most ruthless performance ever at that event. In six matches, Donald never trailed once and never reached the 18th hole.

'I've won some big tournaments over the years,' Donald said. 'I'm figuring out the majors. I'm hoping I'll be like Ben Hogan and win eight after I'm 35. I'm really starting to figure out myself, how I deal with pressure. I'm getting a lot closer. I'm finding ways to win tournaments, and hopefully, that will carry into winning majors.'

Mickelson won his first major at 33. Padraig Harrington won the first of his three majors at 35.

'For a lot of years, the Tiger factor fooled us into thinking you come out at 20 and dominate,' Adam Scott said. 'That last happened in 1962 (with Jack Nicklaus). Greg Norman dominated the game in his 30s and 40s. Ben Hogan didn't win a major until he was 33. Some players mature later. Some people peak at 18 and never get any better. Luke is a bit of a grinder. He has stepped up his game and found out what worked. It's clear in my mind that right now, he's the best player in the world.'

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”