Luke Donald says he's been swinging the club better than he has in a long time.
Luke Donald says he's been swinging the club better than he has in a long time. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spotlight on Team RBS: Donald ready for major breakthrough

England's Luke Donald is a rising star on the PGA Tour, and his play so far this year proves as much. He lost in a playoff at the Buick Invitational, and has three other top 10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Western Open. In this Spotlight on Team RBS, Donald talks about his play this year.

Let�s review your record over the past couple of years. You�ve not yet played in the Master. You played in 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and tied for 18th, which was your best showing in a major. In the Open Championship, you�ve missed the cut three times as a professional. And in the PGA Championship, you played in it for the first time last year and tied for 23rd. Why don�t you go back and talk to us about Bethpage Black in 2002 and how you played there and does your performance there give you encouragement for the week coming up?

Yeah, well Bethpage Black was obviously one of the toughest majors we�ve played, very tough set-up. It was a fair course, but very tough the way it was set up and I think that played into my hands. You know you have to hit it very straight off the tee and manage your game very well and that really helped me do as well as I did there. I remember I played really well on the last round, I was 3 under for the first nine holes and I think at that point I was in the top 10. I stumbled a little bit coming in but it was a great week for me. I think having the course as hard as it was did help me because it played into my strengths. And Whistling Straits, having seen it yesterday, looks like it�s going to be another tough, tough test. Obviously, a little bit different than Bethpage; it�s more exposed, a bit more weather can hit that course, a bit more wind, which can make it tricky. But again, you have to be very accurate and place yourself very well around there.

One more question about Bethpage: You shot 76 in the first round at Bethpage and then 72, 70 and 72 again, so that very easily could have been a much higher finish.

Yeah, absolutely, again I got a bit of nervous start on the first day, I think I was 4 or 5 over, maybe 6 over after nine and then did well to finish at 76. Then the last day again I was playing very well and then we had some weather come in on Sunday and the course got very windy and I stumbled a little bit on the last few holes. I think that it had a bit more to do with inexperience than anything. It just shows I�ve got the ability to contend in a major.

Before we get into Whistling Straits, talk about your record this year and background. As far as your year this year, this has by far been your most solid year, has it not?

Absolutely, this has been a very good year for me. I�ve made lots of steady progress this year. What�s different this year compared to last year is I�ve really given myself chances to win tour events coming into the weekend. I�ve had four or five top 10�s this year, I was runner-up at the Buick at Torrey Pines and a number of other events where I�ve had a chance to win going into the weekend, which is was the what the aim was at the beginning of the year.

You missed the cut at the Open Championship and then came right back and won the Scandinavian Masters. What was the difference there?

Well, it was a week actually. I played the British Open and then I played the Irish Open and then Sweden. I don�t know, I didn�t play that badly at the Open Championship, it�s just a couple of small mistakes on the first day. I had two double bogeys and shot four over on the first day. I played quite well on the second day and 3 putted my last holes and missed the cut by one. So, probably the scores didn�t reflect the way I played. Then I had a solid week in Ireland, I finished 22nd there in the Nissan Irish Open. Then went to Sweden and played extremely well. The course, it seems to suit my game, it�s a course you don�t have to over-power again you just have to place yourself really well. And, I finished third at the Scandinavian Masters last year so it�s a place I feel comfortable playing and then I went on to win this year -- just played very solidly.

Now we see in the progression of your scores, you had a 71 in each round of the Irish, and then in the Scandinavian Masters you had three 69�s and a 65, so other than the opening round of the Open Championship, you�ve kept your scores at or below par.

Yeah, exactly, and that one 75 in the British Open was just a couple of bad shots. I got stuck in one of those horrible bunkers one day and it was kind of the spirit of the British Open.

Including the three events in Europe, you�ve finished in the top 10 in three of your last six events. Are you playing about as well now as you�ve played all year?

I believe so, I�ve really been swinging the club very well. You know, coupled with some good putting at times, it�s really helped me get those top 10�s and the win of course. This is probably the best I�ve been swinging the club in a long time.

Check back on Wednesday for another edition of Spotlight Team RBS.

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