Former world #1 Luke Donald is headed back to a familiar place. This week the Englishman will play at the BMW PGA Championship, a European Tour event, the Tour’s flagship event.
Donald is searching for something to put a spark back into his game after recently flat play. This venue may be just the place, as he has experienced some of his finest moments as a professional while playing at Wentworth.
In 2010 Donald was runner-up, following up with consecutive wins in 2011 and 2012. Last year he finished T-3, two shots behind the winner Rory McIlroy. It wasn’t that long ago for success for Luke. But remember, at one time he was the #1 player in the world. The fall will always appear more dramatic for a former world #1, see Tiger Woods.
Because of Donald’s world rank, he will be needing a big finish.
The Englishman is currently ranked No. 60 in the world, his lowest ranking since July of 2004. He needs to jump back into the world’s top-50 again this week to earn himself an exemption to the Open Championship.
‘With my world ranking sliding, I’d have to seriously consider something like that [playing only on the PGA Tour] next year if it had not got better,’ said Donald. He is truthfully considering cutting down his playing focuses in order to gain his place in the world of golf.
Donald must also remain in at least the top-60 to earn a trip to next month’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington state. Donald currently is not eligible for any WGC events or majors for the remainder of 2015.
I mean, how does Luke get back to this level of golf again?
Donald told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, “you are always happy to return to a course where you have enjoyed success in the past and some of my most successful moments as a professional were here at Wentworth.”
He added, “hopefully this would be a place that puts a spark back into my game and gets my season started.”
On the PGA Tour this season, the Englishman has made just 6 cuts in his 11 starts– a low number for one of the most consistent players of the past decade. His only top-10 finish was a T-7 in March at the Honda Classic.
Following a brief coaching switch to Chuck Cook, he reunited in September of last year with Pat Goss of England, his longtime instructor. Results could take some time.
Despite all of the troubles recently, Donald feels he has his focus in the right place and he hopes that translates to good results going forward. Golf, with its ebbs and flows, can be attributed to any number of swing changes, injuries and other distractions. He is intent on regaining his form.
If Donald were to fall out of the top-60 in the world rankings, he would still be eligible for Chambers Bay if he were to regain a top-60 spot before June 15, the final cut off. If he were to miss there, the next logical stop would be sectional qualifying.
Missing out this week on the top-50 means Donald would either have to enter one of the qualifying events to qualify for St. Andrews. Either that, or he would have to grab a spot with a high finish in one of many upcoming events on both the European and PGA Tour.
Luke Donald is never going to dominate a golf course with his power or brute strength. He is a finesse player who specializes (or at one point, specialized) in quality iron shots and an exquisite short game. His bunker ability and putter were two of the best in the world of golf.
On the PGA Tour, he’s still finding success from the bunkers (4th on the PGA Tour in save percentage, 1st on the Tour in proximity to the hole).
There have been other glimmers of hope for Donald. Remember, he’s not a fledging world golfer. He’s still just outside the ranks of an elite player in the world. There are a lot of golfers 61-200 in the world ranks who would trade their pedigrees with Donald. From 125-150 yards, Donald is second on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole.
During his peak, he was gaining stokes tee-to-green by a significant margin. Today, that dominance has slipped some (as he’s ranked 74th).
Hopefully sooner, rather than later, we can have this Luke Donald back again.
Unless it’s Ryder Cup time…