Luke Donald Great Expectations

By Mercer BaggsJuly 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
The 2:47 a.m. ET tee time for the opening round of the 134th Open Championship:
 
Jack Nicklaus: 73 PGA Tour victories; 18 major championship victories; three Open Championship victories.
 
Luke Donald
Luke Donald will have a huge following Thursday and Friday, playing alongside Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Tom Watson: 39 PGA Tour victories; eight major championship victories; five Open Championship victories.
 
Luke Donald: 2002 Southern Farm Bureau winner; one top-10 in a major; five missed cuts in five Open Championship appearances.
 
This may be the easiest game ever of 'Which of these three does not belong?'
 
This may be the closest that Donald ever gets to being lumped in with Nicklaus and Watson. But many in and around the game expect great things from the 27-year-old Englishman.
 
Those great expectations were cast on him before he ever turned professional. He twice led Great Britain & Ireland to victory in the Walker Cup, going 7-1 over the two competitions. He was a three-time All-America selection at Northwestern University, and the NCAA champion and top collegiate player in 1999.
 
I was one of the best players in college. And I came to the PGA Tour and just played OK, but was getting beaten a lot, every week for a couple of years, and wasnt really breaking through the way I imagined it, Donald said Wednesday on the eve of the Open.
 
And that affects your confidence a little bit.
 
Donald has encountered some success in the professional ranks, including a win in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. But it wasnt until last year that he began to resemble the Luke Donald that everyone envisioned.
 
Donald didnt win in the U.S., but he did pick up a pair of titles on the European Tour, which helped land him a spot on his first Ryder Cup team ' a victorious Ryder Cup team.
 
This year, though he has thus far taken the collar in the States, he has performed quite well in the top-tier tournaments.
 
Donald was runner-up at The Players Championship, where he held the 54-hole lead. He then tied for third at the Masters for his first top-10 in a major. He was four off the 36-hole pace at the U.S. Open, before a 74-80 finish sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.
 
His increased presence during the majors ' and the semi-major, combined with his amateur pedigree ' and the fact that England is longing for its next Nick Faldo ' equal a revival of those great expectations.
 
I dont really feel pressure. Obviously, theres a little bit more expectation on players like myself. Ive played well this year, he said.
 
I feel in the last couple of years, the limelight has been more on me, especially this last year. I think that just comes with the territory of playing well and moving up the world rankings.
 
Donald is currently the top-ranked Englishman in the world at 15th on the Official World Golf Ranking, which makes him one of the favorites this week to be the first European-born player since Paul Lawrie at this event in 1999 to win a major championship.
 
Then again, theres the matter of his dubious record in this championship.
 
Obviously, its not good at all. But (it's) something Im not thinking about this week, he said. I feel like Im a different player now. Im not coming here just to make the cut; Im coming here to win this championship.
 
The way Ive been playing the last couple of years is quite different than the years before that. I feel like Im a stronger player; I feel more confident. I feel like I can deal with these situations better ' major championships.
 
Donald, who employs a sports performance coach to help him on the mental aspects of the being a professional athlete, may be an Englishman, but hes certainly one who has been Americanized.
 
He still resides in the Chicago area, following his four-year stint at Northwestern.
 
Links golf ' as if his Open record didnt give it away ' is not his specialty.
 
The British Open is a little bit different kettle of fish, because we dont play very many links courses during the season. Its really the only tournament where we play a completely different golf course, he said.
 
I grew up playing some links golf, but Ive been over (in America) so much that my game is pretty much adapted to the U.S. style.
 
But if there is one Open venue where Donald feels some sort of comfort zone, its the Old Course at St. Andrews.
 
Thats probably the most familiar course of all the Open rotation courses. Ive played there a number of times, he said. I played it last year at the Dunhill Links. Ive played it in 2000 when the Open was back there, and Ive played a Palmer Cup there. I played the St. Andrews Links Trophy there, so Ive played it a lot more than any of the British Open courses.
 
Familiarity isnt the only thing that makes for a 15th club in his bag. He feels hes also hit that point in the learning curve where he can actually apply his past failures to help achieve success.
 
I feel link Im going to play my own game this week. Unless the conditions get so severe, so windy, you dont really need to adapt your game too much, he said. Maybe in the past Ive tried to adapt my game too much ' working on pitch and runs, and long putts from off the green, and that kind of stuff. I think if I can play to my strengths then Ill be well suited around here.
 
Donalds new approach will be put the test Thursday morning. And so will his nerves, as he plays alongside two Hall of Fame members. One of those legends has won more Open titles than anyone else in the field. And the other is the greatest major champion of all, who is making his last tour in this championship.
 
I think it was Ernie (Els) or someone told me that I might have to bring earplugs, because theres going to be a lot of applause, a lot of clapping ' something different than what Ive probably ever experienced, said Donald, who was grouped with Els in last year's Open and with Tiger Woods two years ago.
 
But hopefully I can use the vibes from the crowd to motivate myself and play ' use their kind of energy to spur me one. Hopefully.
 
Donald may never find himself in the same category as a Nicklaus or a Watson. But he feels like hes ready to join today's elite crowd.
 
I feel a lot more confident, and playing well breeds more confidence, he said. I feel like I belong with the top guys now.
 
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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

    Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

    The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

    On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

    Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

    In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.