LONDON – The man who turned Jonny Wilkinson into the best kicker in world rugby could prove to be a key factor in Luke Donald's quest to end his major drought this summer.
Donald woke up Monday as the world's top-ranked player having overtaken Rory McIlroy after his four-stroke win at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.
The Englishman credits his calm at Wentworth this weekend to the work he's doing with Dave Alred, a performance coach and sports psychologist.
"It's helped me to really be aware of my posture and how I outwardly project that feeling of positiveness," Donald said. "It helps me send that message to whoever I'm playing with."
Justin Rose was Donald's playing partner on the final day and started two shots behind his Ryder Cup colleague. With Donald bogeying the 4th and Rose making birdie there, the players were quickly tied at 10 under, but Donald had the mental strength to pull away again and cruise to the victory, achieving the first successful title defense of his career.
Rose said Donald's consistency off the tee and clutch putting proved to be the difference on an extremely difficult West Course.
"He's certainly always on at me again about keeping the shoulders back and not getting down on myself, staying positive not just mentally but physically and through my body position," Donald said of Alred. "So I think I've done a lot better job of it since I've been working with Dave. He's always reminding me.
"It helps to feel very confident on the greens, too. It's always been a strength of mine, especially in the last four or five years."
Alred's best work has been in rugby, as a kicking coach for England's national team and the British and Irish Lions. He also has had an input in players' mental preparation, which helped turn Wilkinson into a kicking machine who sparked England's success at the start of the century, including the winning goal at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
As far as Donald, Alred's next step is guiding him over the winning line at a major.
Donald has two third-place finishes at Grand Slam events, but still holds the tag of being one of the best current players never to have won a major.
"Well I certainly think I have the ability. It's putting four rounds together like I did here," Donald said.
"I think there could be 20, 25 guys who would say that when they are on their game any given week, they are going to be tough to beat. I feel like I'm part of that group."
Returning to the top of the rankings for the third time in 10 weeks will give him extra confidence heading into the U.S. Open in San Francisco on June 14-17 and then the British Open in July and the U.S. PGA Championship in August.
Rose climbed to No. 6 after finishing tied for second with Paul Lawrie at 11 under, matching his highest ever position in the rankings. Lawrie climbed from 40th to 29th.
With three Ryder Cup hopefuls topping the leaderboard on Sunday, Donald believes Europe is in a good position to defend the trophy in Medinah near Chicago in September.
"I think it's shaping up nicely, our team," he said. "The U.S. guys are playing well, too. I think it's going to be a tough battle."