Subscribe to RSS feed for News Luke Donald is off to his best start in a major all year. (Photo: Getty Images)
Luke Donald is off to his best start in a major all year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Donald's off to a strong start in his first 'home' major

Luke Donald, who has lived in Chicago since his college days at Northwestern, is the rare European who can sleep in his own bed at a PGA Championship. After poor starts in the other 2006 majors, his opening 68 has him in good shape.

MEDINAH, Ill. (PA) -- Not many Europeans get to play a PGA Championship while staying at home. But that's how it is for Luke Donald this week.

The 28-year-old Englishman has had a base in Chicago ever since he went to Northwestern University, where his degree was not in golf but in art theory and practice.

Donald was still an amateur when the PGA Championship was last at Medinah Country Club in 1999. He then failed to qualify for the 2003 U.S. Open at nearby Olympia Fields -- the one where Jim Furyk achieved his first and so far only major title -- but Donald is playing now and is excited about the prospect.

"It feels a little bit more relaxing because I don't have to travel to get here. It's about a 40-minute drive," he said. "I've played Medinah a number of times, including a couple last week to really get familiar with how it's going to play.

"My game feels great and hopefully everything kicks into place," he added. "You can't really control that, but you can do everything as much as possible in the way of practicing and preparing."

Donald had high hopes for this season's four majors, but in the first three he has managed only 42nd, 12th and 35th. In all three, the first round has left him with a lot of catching up to do -- a 74 at Augusta, 78 at Winged Foot and then 74 again at Hoylake last month.

But he got off to a much better start at Medinah Thursday, posting a 4-under 68 to be tied for fourth place.

"I've been struggling to get off to a good start in the majors this season, so that was good," said Donald, two behind co-leaders Lucas Glover and Chris Riley. "I didn't play great, but I got a lot out of it," especially at the 197-yard 17th, where he holed a bunker shot for a birdie 2.

"I think [his poor starts] was more mental than anything," he said. "I feel like I've got to a stage in my game where I'm good enough to compete and win at any given tournament and right now I've been getting in my own way a little bit.

"I feel like I've put a little bit too much expectation early on in the round when really Thursday shouldn't be any different to any other round," he explained. "It's about not pressing too hard, not getting too upset at myself and whenever I hit a bad shot just keep playing one shot at a time.

"I've had the guy I work with on the mental side, Jim Fanning, with me and we've talked about not letting one bad shot affect the next couple of holes," he said. "That's kind of what has happened the last few majors."

This is an important week in Ryder Cup terms as well for Donald. He is fifth in the European standings, but if sixth-placed Sergio Garcia goes past him, Donald's European Tour earnings are such that he won't be in the top 10 and could then need a wild card.

"Hopefully with a good solid three weeks [all that's left before the European side is finalized], then I will secure my place," said Donald, who was picked as a wild card in his Ryder Cup debut in 2004 " I'm looking forward to making that team automatically."

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