Donald poised to reach new heights

By Doug FergusonApril 19, 2011, 9:26 pm

The HeritageJACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Luke Donald looks like a different player these days.

He even acts like a different player.

Consider his final hole at the Masters, where he was desperate to make birdie to keep alive his slim hopes.

Keeping his weight on the back leg to keep from falling into a fairway bunker, Donald hit a shot so perfect that it one-hopped high against the pin and ricocheted off the front of the green. Then came an impeccable chip – he’s been hitting a lot of those lately – that dropped for birdie, and the 33-year-old Englishman unleashed emotions that seem to have been bottled up his whole career.

He raised both arms, pumped them twice, roared, slammed his right fist and ripped off his visor to salute the gallery.

“It was revenge for my second shot,” Donald said Monday. “I got carried away. It was a fun moment.”

Even with the birdie, Donald eventually wound up four shots behind Charl Schwartzel in a tie for fourth with Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy, who played in front of him. Even so, it was another performance that explains why Donald has risen to a career-high No. 3 in the world, and why he can go even higher when he returns this week at Hilton Head.

Donald still doesn’t win as often as he would like – six official victories, only two in the last five years – but winning starts with giving himself chances, and he has done that as well as anyone lately.

Dating to the Tour Championship, where he was runner-up to Jim Furyk by one shot, Donald has finished out of the top 10 only one time in his last nine starts. The exception was a missed cut at Riviera, where he returned after a three-month break. A week later, Donald was so dominant at the Match Play Championship that he became the first player to never trail in any of his six matches.

So what has changed?

Pat Goss, his golf coach at Northwestern who still works with him, used to see two players – a world-beater every two years at the Ryder Cup (Donald has an 8-2-1 record), and a player burdened by expectations just about everywhere else, particularly the majors.

Goss noticed something different at Augusta.

“The Masters was the first time I saw the Ryder Cup Luke,” Goss said. “He looked like a fighter, ready to go nose-to-nose. He played fearlessly. Every time he made a mistake, he really fought back.”

Donald attributes the difference to the people around him.

The toughest change was deciding toward the end of 2009 to no longer have his brother, Christian, as his caddie. He now has Jon McLaren, whom Donald says “keeps me more lighthearted.” He continues to lean on Goss as a coach, mentor and friend. The other addition was Dave Alred, a performance guru best known in rugby circles as a kicking coach for the likes of Johnny Wilkinson.

It was Alred who reminded Donald that of his 12 holes he played over par at the Masters, he bounced back with a birdie six times. Such data is now in a diary that Alred has asked Donald to keep. And it was Alred who, in an interview with the BBC last year, referred to Donald as an assassin on the golf course.

“It’s one shot, one opportunity and you need to hit right between the eyes because you don’t get a second chance,” Alred said.

Put it all together, and something is going very right for Donald.

“He has a lot of belief in what he’s doing and how he’s preparing,” Goss said.

Along the way, Donald has accepted that he will never be one of the game’s power hitters, and what he has is ample. It was after his 2006 season, when he played in the final group at a major for the first time, that he began chasing extra length.

“I thought to myself that I had to hit it further,” Donald said. “My coach never thought that. He thought I had enough in me. But week in and week out I was being outdriven, and all the bombers were winning, and I convinced myself I had to get longer. I think that’s part of the reason I got injured. It’s part of the reason my swing got in a place I didn’t like.”

Donald finally felt a pop in his wrist at the 2008 U.S. Open and wound up missing the second half of the season, along with the Ryder Cup at Valhalla. The upside to that: He still hasn’t played on a losing Ryder Cup team.

He was working his way back into shape when his best finish at a major in 2009 – a tie for fifth at the British Open – produced harsh criticism of his work ethic. An American writer, in a story published in a British newspaper, questioned his effort and motivation and referred to such players as having “Luke Donald Disease.”

“I can honestly tell you, it was the first time I saw the media affect him,” Goss said. “Most times with a negative article, he lets it pass in one ear and out the other. But this was a Sunday paper in London. He’s proud of his English heritage. And that stung. It was discouraging, because it couldn’t have been further from the truth.”

Donald has been working harder than ever, especially on his short game. He ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in scoring and putting, and he is No. 3 in scoring on par 5s, a testament to his wedge play.

“I think he’s probably the best in the world in the short game at the moment,” Martin Kaymer said after losing to Donald in the Match Play final. “I played with Phil Mickelson a few times and it is unbelievable. But what Luke is doing at the moment is a joke.”

If Donald had access to Twitter in Shanghai last year, when he tied for third in a World Golf Championship, he might have chuckled over a tweet from Joe Ogivlie, who was astonished to see him in contention so often.

“Does anyone know where I can get the ‘Luke Donald’ disease?”

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Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.

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The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a clsong birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.