Donald Trumps All With Putter

By Rex HoggardJune 4, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
DUBLIN, Ohio ' Great putters are born, not made. Or so the worn-out saw goes. Luke Donald would beg to differ.
When the soft-spoken Englishman made his way onto the PGA Tour he was thoughtful, athletic, driven and level-headed. But no one would have confused the amateur artisan for Ben Crenshaw. That is to say, at least statistically, the package was a gallon of milk short of a full bag.
Luke Donald
Luke Donald raced past the field with a hot putter Thursday. (Getty Images)
In 2004, Donalds third year on Tour, he ranked a pedestrian 133rd in putting average. It may have been good enough to keep his Tour card, but with 1.791 swipes per green with the flat stick hed never be dubbed the Boss of the Chicago Moss.
But, as his swing coach Pat Goss points out, Donald is nothing if not structured. He has lists for everything, Goss said on Thursday at Muirfield Village. The first item on Donalds list must have been improving his putting.
Each year since 04 Donalds play on and around the greens has improved dramatically. From 83rd (2005) to 22nd (2006) to eighth (2008) to first this year in putting average, his climb in the only stat that seems to count has been dramatic, if not dogged.
On Thursday at cool, windswept Muirfield Village, the man with the humble putting pedigree proved again that, like Ben Hogans golf swing, the putting stroke is found in the dirt, not the DNA, with his 20-putt, 8-under 64.
That red-card haul was three strokes better than his closest challenger. The thing is Jim Furyk, among a group of four at 5 under, wasnt sure he could have done much better, and Tour pros can always do better.
But then, when your frontrunner runs in 105 feet of one putts ' only two of which were longer than 15 feet (25 and 20 feet at Nos. 10 and 16, respectively) ' theres not a lot of room for improvement.
It was a couple of decent-sized ones (putts), but nothing major, Donald wildly understated.
Donalds caddie, his brother Christian, was a tad more exuberant between bites from a red Twizzler. Unbelieveable. He just loves these greens, Christian Donald smiled.
The Tour record for fewest putts for a round is 18 held by six players. But by and large those Herculean efforts occurred on golf courses with greens that are not nearly as sinister as Muirfield Villages.
There might not be as much slope as Augusta, but on a flat putt, they're probably quicker than Augusta, Donald said. Confidence on the greens breeds confidence. You keep making more putts. I think putting is very mental. Once you feel like you're a good putter, then it becomes easier.
This from a man who was more Julia Roberts than Loren Roberts with the putter when he bolted Northwestern.
Donalds short-stick transformation began right out of college, where he was a perennial contender due, largely, to his ballstriking and athleticism.
In college and amateur golf he hit it so much better than everyone else he didnt need to work on his putting, said Goss, Donalds coach at Northwestern. But on Tour he realized what carried him in college golf wasnt going to be good enough on Tour.
The changes were focused and gradual, like most accomplishments of any import.
Everything improved along the way. Scrambling, through the roof, putts per round, through the roof, just his entire short game has improved, said Goss.
As these things often do, the focus on Donalds short game led to less work on his ballstriking and last years wrist injury at the U.S. Open and subsequent surgery forced him to rededicate himself to the practice range.
Earlier this year Goss challenged Donald to be a two-thirds player.
Now weve gone back to ballstriking, Goss said. We want him to hit two-thirds of his fairways and two-thirds of his greens.
On Tuesday Donald and Goss worked together at Northwesterns indoor practice facility and something clicked. The session took just 45 minutes and even with a limited tune up for the Memorial, he arrived Wednesday and managed to play just nine holes and spent no time on the range, he was sharp tee to green in Round 1.
Hes also motivated this year after missing half of last season and Septembers Ryder Cup, something of a biennial rite for the young Englishman.
He watched every match from Valhalla, as painful as it may have been for a European, and texted Goss throughout the event with insight and observations. Ultimately it was the driving force through six months of rehabilitation.
He loves that event. It means the world to him, Goss said. It really drove him to improve and make sure he was a member of next years team.
Thats good news for European captain Colin Montgomerie. Ryder Cup skippers are always in need of good putters ' either of the natural or self-made variety.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Getty Images

    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.