Donald to take a more relaxed attitude
FOR THE sixth Major in a row Luke Donald will go into next week’s British Open Championship as world number one. None of the previous five, of course, has led to the outcome he wanted – and nor did any of the 31 he played before that.
In a bid to change things at Royal Lytham and so become England’s first winner of a major since Nick Faldo in 1996, Donald is determined to take a more relaxed attitude. The 34-year-old, who first of all will try to defend his Scottish Open title at Castle Stuart, could not have been more impressed by Roger Federer – “so calm and collected” – when he watched his semi-final win over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last Friday.
He also saw Andy Murray beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and on the Scot’s bid to end his Grand Slam duck Donald commented: “He’s made a very conscious effort not to get so down on himself.
“When I’m playing I’m laughing and joking, but I’ve realised that (at Majors) I do get a little bit more anxious, a little bit more uptight, a little bit more agitated.
“People around me notice it. I’ve got to try and control that and that’s going to be the priority – go out there and try to play with a little bit more freedom, a little bit more fun. I’ve realised it for a while and it’s just a constant process of trying to work on that and improve every time.
“It’s got to come from me. Obviously I work with (mental coach) Dave Alfred, but that’s more about going through the process of being diligent about my practice and practising efficiently.”
Donald knows that winning a Major is the one thing missing from his career – and it would certainly help someone like Kylie Minogue know who he is.
They sat next to each other at lunch before going into the Royal Box, but the Australian star needed her boyfriend to tell her that Donald was a golfer. “She was a sweet girl, actually – a really genuinely nice girl, down to earth and I enjoyed chatting to her a little bit,” he said.
After winning the Scottish title last July – and doing it with a closing 63 that was the lowest round of his European Tour career – Donald went to Sandwich and missed the cut.
He also made an early exit from last month’s US Open, but while the first of those he put down to a poor short game he felt his ball-striking let him down in San Francisco. He said: “I got a little bit caught up in trying to hit the right shot, but I didn’t strike it very well and that made me a bit anxious.”
Donald heads a cast this week that also includes Phil Mickelson, who decided only on Saturday that after a disappointing run of results in the States he wanted to put in another event before the British Open.
Last year Mickelson finished only 58th at Castle Stuart – the event was cut to three rounds after an absolute deluge that even led to a landslide on one hole – but a week later was joint runner-up behind Darren Clarke.
Ernie Els, Pádraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal, predecessor Colin Montgomerie and US-based Scot Martin Laird are also in Inverness.
Montgomerie and Olazabal are not in the Open as things stand, but there is a spot available on Sunday. They have to be the leading non-exempt player in the top five for that, however. Montgomerie has not finished that high for over four years, although he was joint leader early in the final round last year, but the Spaniard managed it in Majorca 14 months ago.
Of the seven Irish players in action, only Harrington is guaranteed a place in the field at the season’s third Major. For Shane Lowry, who showed a return to form at the French Open, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin, Paul McGinley or Simon Thornton to claim a place in next week’s Major will be a tall order.