5 Things: Donald's path to Match Play glory
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Luke Donald isn’t thought of as dominant. He’s a medium-length hitter who’s known for consistency, not for constantly collecting trophies. Donald’s victory over Martin Kaymer in the final match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play capped off one of the most dominant weeks in the tournament’s history, though:
1. Back in the winner’s circle: Donald moved to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking thanks to his first PGA Tour win in nearly five years. The WGC-Accenture Match Play was Donald’s third career PGA Tour title, and first since 2006. He’d won only once, the 2010 Madrid Masters on the European Tour, between the 2006 Honda Classic and 2011 Match Play.
WGC Match Play Championship
Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald will face off in the Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday.
“Hopefully I’m getting past that stage of going a few years without winning,” Donald said.
2. What 18th hole? Donald may have played six rounds at Dove Mountain this week, but don’t ask him what he thinks about the course’s 18th hole. He may not remember what it looks like, having never seen it during his dominant week.
Donald never trailed in any match. He played only 89 holes in six matches (average of 14.8 per match). He led after 81 of the 89 holes. Donald joined Tiger Woods (2003) as the only players to win without any of their matches reaching No. 18.
“It’s pretty special,” Donald said said. “Those are things I will note to myself, that will give me confidence going forward, that I can perform like this.”
3. "Inaccurate characterization": Donald, one of golf’s most consistent players, has been characterized as a player who’s content just to cash large checks. His coach, Pat Goss, is hoping that’ll change in light of his impressive victory.
“That characterization of Luke has been the most inaccurate characterization I’ve ever heard,” Goss said. “He works harder now than he did 10 years ago, he works harder now than he did five years ago, all with the goal to see how good he can be. He took all of those losses hard. One thing we’ve talked about continually is that every one of those makes you stronger.”
4. Time off pays off: The PGA Tour season may be eight weeks old, but the WGC-Match Play was just Donald’s second event of the year. Donald took six weeks off after the Chevron World Challenge. His delayed start to 2011 gave him four weeks to prepare and get his game in shape.
Despite that preparation, his season didn’t get off to a good start. He shot 68-79 at the previous week’s Northern Trust Open, an event he usually plays well in.
“He was beyond discouraged after the second round at Riviera because he really believed in the way he prepared,” Goss said. “Then all of a sudden, out of the gates he played one of his worst rounds. It took a day or two to recover. I was so proud of him for keeping faith in his preparation. To bounce back shows a lot of character.”
5. Hail to the chief: Hail in the desert? Hard to believe, but it happened during the final match, capping off a week of wild weather. A winter storm blew in when the championship match was on the third hole, briefly halting play. Snow fell the evening before the final. The morning low was 32 degrees. The bizarre weather reminded Donald of his college days at Northwestern.
“It must’ve been a college event, playing (Ohio State’s) Scarlet Course in Columbus in April,” said Donald, when asked about the last time he played in such weather. “It was kind of bizarre crouching under my umbrella like that. It was testing conditions.”