Donald Thinks Added Distance Plays in His Favor

By Associated PressApril 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jack Nicklaus is among those who believe additional length at Augusta National has created such an advantage to the big hitters that only a dozen or so players have a realistic chance at winning the Masters.
Luke Donald isn't buying it.
He actually believes the length plays to his strengths.
The 28-year-old from England has moderate power off the tee -- and that's being generous -- relying instead on purely struck iron shots with a classic swing. It sure didn't hurt him last year in his Masters debut, when he posted three rounds in the 60s -- a 76 in the third round derailing his hopes -- to finish in a tie for third, seven shots out of the playoff.
'They have lengthened the course, and it's definitely harder,' Donald said Monday. 'But hopefully, that will just play to my strengths of having to hit very accurate, long irons. That's something I've done well throughout my career, and I feel like even though the course has changed, I've changed as a player, too.'
His biggest change of late was hoisting a trophy, which had held him back.
A former NCAA champion at Northwestern and Walker Cup player, Donald's only victory on the PGA Tour was the rain-delayed, opposite-field Southern Farm Bureau Classic at the end of the 2002 season. He contended on some of the meatier courses, such as Torrey Pines, but his iron play often deserted him on the closing holes.
He broke through a month ago at the Honda Classic, hitting a 7-iron into 2 feet on the 18th hole to clinch the victory. Now, Donald is setting his goals a little higher.
He wants the top 10 in the world ranking to be a regular destination -- he now is No. 9 -- and a regular contender at the majors. His first chance this year starts Thursday in the Masters, where Tiger Woods is the defending champion.
Donald is under no illusions.
Augusta National has been stretch to 7,445 yards -- the second-longest course in major championship history -- and when he played the course a month ago and came to the 240-yard fourth hole, Donald had to hit 3-wood to the par 3.
Of course, he put it 6 feet from the hole for birdie.
'There's no question that if you're hitting it far and reasonably straight, which you do have to do around here, it's a big advantage,' Donald said. 'I saw a couple of people tee off (No.) 1 and Tiger Woods was 30, 40 yards past most people. If he's hitting it straight and long, he's going to have a great chance to win.
'But I've still got to believe that I still can,' he said. 'If I play really great golf, then I've got a chance to win around here. I do put a lot of emphasis on my iron play. If I live up to that, there's no reason why I can't make some birdies out there and compete.'
Woods checked in Monday and played nine holes with Mark O'Meara and Sean O'Hair before going to the practice range and chipping area. He'll be going for his fifth green jacket, which would make him the only player to twice defend his title.
Other favorites have one thing in common -- power -- whether it's Retief Goosen or Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh or Ernie Els.
Donald, meanwhile, is on a list of contenders who hope to end Europe's drought in the majors. The last European to win a major was Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in the 1999 British Open. Sergio Garcia has flirted with victory a few times, while Thomas Bjorn was in the hunt at the PGA Championship last year and the '03 British Open at Royal St. George's, won by Ben Curtis.
Perhaps an anniversary will work in England's favor.
It was 10 years ago this week that Nick Faldo -- renowned more for his execution and strategy than his power -- closed with a 67 and took advantage of a collapse by Greg Norman to win the Masters for his third green jacket.
Donald found inspiration from Faldo, for no other reason than their bloodlines.
'I read stories about some of the thing he did just to prepare,' Donald said. 'He was very precise in everything he did.'
Other Europeans who might be able to end their 25-major drought are David Howell, who tied for 11th in his Masters debut last year, Garcia, big-hitting Swede Henrik Stenson and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who tied for second last week at the BellSouth Classic, albeit 13 shots behind Mickelson.
Donald was asked to explain the European drought, whether it was coincidence, cyclical or simply a reflection on their games.
'A bit of everything,' he said. 'You would have to think it's a reflection on the players. It's hard to explain. We've had good enough players to win, that's for sure. We haven't had the best players in the world since that time. The top 10 players in the world have either been American, or you've got Ernie and Retief (South Africa), and there's not been too many Europeans.
'Hopefully,' he said, 'that will change.'
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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson


    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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    Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

    Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

    The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.

    The second is from Sunday night.

    And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

    Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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    Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

    After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

    Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

    Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.