VIRGINIA WATER, England – It’s nice to see world’s best suffer the same problems as the rest of us. Luke Donald dropped out of the World No. 1 spot because he hasn’t been able to get all parts of his game working at the same level.
Welcome to our world, Luke. We know what it’s like to drive the ball fairly well only to be let down by our short games, and vice versa. Happens all the time.
The Englishman was speaking as part of a press conference to promote this year’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. Donald won the tournament last year in a playoff with Lee Westwood, supplanting Westwood as World No. 1.
Donald fell to No. 2 last week after failing to finish top eight in the RBC Heritage. He got to No. 1 largely on the back of a fantastic short game. Yet his endeavor to find a long game that matched means he lacks the consistency of last year.
“My short game hasn’t been sharp,” Donald admitted. “In the offseason I worked quite hard on my golf swing specifically, trying to get my driving a little more consistent.
“Sometimes when you work on one part of the game, another suffers a little bit.”
Needless to say, Donald intends to work harder on his short game in preparation for his title defense at Wentworth. Not just to help him defend his BMW PGA Championship, but to help him find golf’s Holy Grail – a major championship.
“I’ve won five or six times in the last two years,” Donald said. “I’m certainly feeling a lot more comfortable figuring out how to close out tournaments. Obviously majors are the next step up. The more times I can put myself in contention then it’s going to happen.
“I really want to win one. Until I do, it will be disappointing and frustrating. I’m not going to lie about that.”
So Donald will defend at Wentworth and hopefully get his game in shape for the U.S. Open. Question is: Will all of Europe’s top stars show up?
Wentworth’s West Course is much changed since Harry Colt laid it out, but Colt must be rolling in his grave. It doesn’t bear much resemblance to his original creation.
Unfortunately, the state of the course has dominated headlines in recent years after alterations by Ernie Els, at the behest of owner Richard Caring.
Many of Europe’s elite don’t like the changes. Indeed, Els took so much heat after first alteration that he was forced to soften the course.
European pros still hate it, but are under duress to play since the tournament is the Euro Tour’s flagship event. So it will be interesting to see who ducks out this year. Hopefully not many, because BMW does a good job with the event and deserve better.
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I MADE IT: Another year, another 72 Club. My eighth time of playing 72 holes in one day, walking and carrying my bag in four rounds of medal play.
I teed off at 7:15 a.m. in the company of Littlestone member Doug Smallman and finished with Eddie Ashdown, also a Littlestone member, at 7:15 p.m. Both men played 36 holes after my partner withdrew at the last minute. I had a half hour break for lunch, and probably five-minute intervals between the first and second 36. So, all in all, about 11 hours 20 minutes for four rounds.
My scores were 94-86-83-88, which is about my level right now despite my 9 handicap. I finished 10th out of the 17 hardy soles that played. I was a little jaded next morning, a little dehydrated with a few aches but not as bad as I thought I’d be.
I wasn’t nearly as bad some who hobbled away from Littlestone. I certainly wasn’t as bad as Michael Edey, an 8-handicapper making his debut this year. He finished last comfortably with rounds of 101-86-114-107. The 72 Club can’t do that. So can Littlestone’s rough.
I asked Edey if he’d be back next year. He gave an emphatic “no.” He’s one of many who think 72 holes in one day is a good idea only to realize it’s harder than it sounds. He’s one of 48 men to play once and never return. (No women have ever entered. Come on ladies!)
Bryan O’Neil, 72 Club secretary, holds the record for most appearances with 41, and four have played 25 or more. You get a silver tankard when you reach 25, which means I only have 17 more to play.
Can’t wait. It’s the one event I look forward to every year, my chance to prove golf doesn’t have to be slow.