Luke Donald returns this week to a familiar place in an unfamiliar position.
Donald is in the field for the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship, a tournament where he has experienced some of his biggest career achievements. Donald won the event in 2011 and 2012, was a runner-up in 2010 and finished T-3 last year, two shots behind Rory McIlroy.
But his trip back to Wentworth this year comes with the Englishman well down in the world rankings and in need of a big finish. He is ranked No. 60 in the world, his lowest point since July 2004, and Donald needs to crack the top 50 this week to earn an exemption to the Open Championship. He must at least remain in the top 60 to punch his ticket to the U.S. Open, as Donald is not currently eligible for any majors or WGC events for the rest of the year.
"You always enjoy coming back to a place where you've had a lot of successes, and some of my best successes have been here," Donald said during a Tuesday news conference. "Hopefully, it's a place that will spark me to kind of get this season started a little bit."
Donald has made only six cuts in 11 starts this season on the PGA Tour, with his lone top-10 result a T-7 finish at the Honda Classic in March. After a brief coaching switch to Chuck Cook, Donald reunited with longtime instructor Pat Goss in September, but the results have yet to improve.
"It's obviously not been a great run for me. That's a little bit how golf is, ebbs and flows from going through a swing change and going back," he said. "I feel like my focus is in the right position right now ... and hopefully that will (translate) into some good results."
Should Donald fall out of the OWGR top 60, he would still earn a spot at Chambers Bay if he regained top-60 status on June 15. Missing out on the top 50 this week would mean that Donald would either need to enter a qualifier to get to St. Andrews or snag a spot with a high finish in one of several upcoming events on the PGA Tour or European Tour.