Published August 07, 2012
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Watching the British capture 22 gold medals and counting at the London Olympics has inspired Luke Donald.
It also should make him feel fortunate.
"The fact that you have one event every four years to really work hard, to see some of the guys who don't perform and to see some of the guys that perform and win gold, there's a lot of raw emotions there," Donald said. "A lot of it has really impressed me."
The good news is Donald doesn't have to wait every four years to try to win a major. He gets four chances every year.
That hasn't made it any easier.
Donald goes into the PGA Championship as the No. 1 player in the world, the product of a tremendous short game, a lot of hard work and the consistency required to top the world ranking. But even while playing his best golf, in Olympic terms, he still hasn't even been on the podium yet.
He was playing his best golf in the spring, headed to the Masters and then didn't break par until the final round, when it was too late. Poised to make a run at his first major in the U.S. Open, he missed the cut. Before an English crowd at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Donald was 10 shots out of the lead going into the last round. He closed with a 69 to tie for fifth, a small consolation.
Even so, Donald says that British Open experience could help him this week at Kiawah Island.
"Certainly coming off the U.S. Open, I was very disappointed how I handled the situation mentally," Donald said. "I didn't come in hitting the ball that great, and maybe that added to some of the anxiety. But I think there was a little bit of a breakthrough, just realizing at The Open Championship that no matter how I'm hitting it physically, there's always a way to mentally be on top, have that control of how I want to feel come Thursday."
Donald doesn't feel any anxiety about the PGA Championship being the final major of the year.
If anything, he overdid it at Augusta National, the first major for everybody after seven months, with emotions running high. The PGA Championship is the last major after a busy summer filled with three majors and a World Golf Championship. Part of him is too tired to get too worked up. It's time to just go play.
"That excitement, that buildup, is a lot more at the Masters," he said. "We're toward the end of the season now. We're entrenched in our golf."
Donald keeps putting himself into elite company, though he is always the exception.
Since the world ranking began in 1986, only four other players have been at No. 1 longer than the 56 weeks Donald has been at the top — Tiger Woods (623 weeks), Greg Norman (331), Nick Faldo (97) and Seve Ballesteros (61).
Trouble is, those four have combined for 27 majors. Donald is still trying to win his first one.
Starting with the 1997 Masters, only six players have been No. 1 going into a major, with Woods leading the way in 51 of those 64 majors. Next on that list is Donald. The PGA Championship is his seventh major as the No. 1 player.
The difference is just as obvious. Woods won 11 of his 59 majors as No. 1. Donald is 0-for-7.
He joins Westwood as the only two players to be No. 1 without ever having won a major. Donald is starting to stand out because he's No. 1 at the last seven majors. That would suggest he's consistently on form. It just seems his game takes a week off at the wrong time.
It's not a lack of effort in preparation. Donald has tried just about everything to get his game to peak at a major.
"In the end, it just comes down to being able to perform during that week," he said. "I've tried coming to tournament sites early, spending a lot of time, and I've gone the other way. The last two majors, Royal Lytham and this week, I haven't played a practice round before this week. We'll see how I do this week. But again, I think it's more important for me to be able to control that mindset."