‘Cured’ Donald trumps critics

MAYBE having a disease named after him was the best thing that ever happened to golf’s new world number one Luke Donald.

On the day Tom Watson came so close to winning the British Open at 59, Donald sneaked almost unnoticed into fifth place with a 67 — and one American writer had had enough.

“It’s now been one solid decade since a Brit won a major championship,” wrote Barker Davis in a piece for the Daily Telegraph.

“The reason behind the drought seems fairly obvious to this Yank — most of the top British players are suffering from various degrees of Luke Donald Disease.

“Your man from Hemel Hempstead is the personification of what’s wrong with professional golf on both sides of the Atlantic.

“In his eight-plus years, Donald has won four third-tier events, made a minor rustle in one major and somehow collected over €15 million in prize money for such an indifferent effort.

“His back door top-five finish at Turnberry, where he didn’t need to execute a single shot in the crucible of actual contention, was vintage Donald.

“Thanks for the cameo. Thanks for the cheque. Now back to the States for more of the same.”

Yesterday the 33-year-old was America-bound again — this time the envy of all his peers and with two wins and nine successive top-10 finishes under his belt already this season.

Actually, make that 14 top-10 finishes in his last 15 starts dating back to last September when he was just pipped by Jim Furyk to the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Ideally, of course, one of those two wins would have been the Masters — his stated goal for this year is, after all, to contend in all four majors.

But the WGC-Accenture Match Play and the BMW PGA Championship were far from third-tier events.

At Wentworth he led after every round and from two shots behind number one Lee Westwood with three to play he birdied the 16th and birdied the first extra hole to dethrone his Ryder Cup team-mate.

Donald would have reached the summit by missing the halfway cut last Friday if Westwood and Kaymer had done the same, but how much more satisfying to him that he had been fully tested and came out the winner.

Especially as he had missed the chance to head the rankings by losing a play-off to Brandt Snedeker in South Carolina last month, then losing the final of the Volvo World Match Play to Ian Poulter in Spain just over a week ago. And even more so because at Wentworth last year he was joint leader with two to go before imploding.

There were so many people he wanted to thank.

His Chicago-based coach Pat Goss, to whom he had spoken after an error-ridden third round on Saturday, has been with him since his university days.

Mental coach Dave Alred is now part of Donald’s team and there are fitness experts, caddie John McLaren — until 18 months ago he had his brother Christian on the bag — friends and family who have also played a part.

Wife Diane is expecting their second child in November and if the baby has the impact of one-year-old daughter Elle then his reign could be a long one.

“She really is an inspiration to me,” he said after being soaked in champagne. “Just watching her grow and every day learning new skills, adapting, becoming better and better. That’s all I’m trying to do at golf too. Every day just try and figure a way to improve — she does that.”

One person he did not thank was Barker Davis. But possibly he is saving that for when he wins his first major – and, since it was Davis of the Washington Times who wrote the article for the Telegraph two years ago, then the US Open at nearby Congressional in a fortnight would seem the ideal time.


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