Donald proves short hitters can still succeed with consistency, short game

luke donald
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Luke Donald admits that his swing suffered after tried to hit the ball farther a few years ago, and it took him two or three years to get his swing back in kilter.
By
Mark Garrod
PA Sports

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Published: Monday, February 28, 2011 | 5:59 p.m.

Luke Donald has struck a blow for every golfer who cannot smash the ball out of sight -- it doesn’t mean you are doomed to failure these days.

Donald's victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday, completed with a win over new world No. 1 Martin Kaymer, offers hope for all those players Tiger Woods calls "plodders."

The 33-year-old Englishman, now up to third in the world behind Kaymer and Lee Westwood, ranked 177th out of 192 with an average driving distance of 277 yards on the PGA Tour last season. And if his start this year is anything to go by, he is about to drop even lower in that stat.

His average so far is only 261.5 yards compared to the 314.8 of Bubba Watson, the longest of the long-hitters. That is a difference of more than 53 yards, but Watson finished fourth last week and Donald first -- on a monster course that measured 7,791 yards.

The second successive English champion at Dove Mountain -- Ian Poulter, another not known for his length, triumphed last February -- finally appears to have learned to go with what he has. Not power, but consistency and marvelous short-game skills.

"Probably back in 2007, if you want to really know the truth, I think I decided to try to hit the ball a little bit farther to try to catch up to some of my peers,” Donald said Sunday. "I think it made my swing get off kilter and it's taken a good two or three years for it to get back to almost where I need it to be."

He admits it was getting to him that he had not turned countless chances into victories, and he has been waiting to hit back at the 'Luke Donald Disease' term coined two years ago by an American writer who thought a number of British golfers backed off as the finishing line came into view.

"I think unfairly at times I've kind of been depicted as someone that is very happy contending and picking up checks but doesn't really care about winning," he said. "That's as far away from the truth as it can be - I feel like my work ethic is as good as any player out here. I work very hard trying to think about ways to keep improving, keep getting better and winning is what it's all about.

"It certainly bothered me. My goal every year is to win tournaments and it's a long time since I've tried to play for money -- I solely focus on trying to win tournaments,” he explained. "I felt like I hadn't won my fair share for as good a player as I felt I was and could be. It was disappointing and frustrating, so to come here and compete against the best players in the world and win the trophy is very gratifying.

"There were times where I was very disappointed and very upset that I hadn't broken through and I can forget about that now,” he added. "I don't think it was a mental issue. Look at my play in Ryder Cups - more pressure-packed events than anything. I've always performed well in Ryder Cups under pressure, winning points."

Indeed, he has lost only twice in 11 matches since making his Ryder Cup debut in 2004 and was joint top-scorer at Celtic Manor last October.

And success undoubtedly breeds success. Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Westwood, Poulter, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose have all won titles in the United States in the last few years -- the first three of them in majors.

"Having your peers do exceptionally well, people that I thought I was at a similar level to, it does give you inspiration,” said Donald. "If they can do it, you can do it. It's somewhat of a motivator."