Donald and McIlroy hope to erase bad images at BMW PGA Championship

luke donald
Getty Images
Luke Donald is trying to shake off his loss in the finals of the Volvo World Match Play on Sunday with a victorious performance in the prestigious BMW PGA Championship this week.
Mark Garrod
PA Sport


Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 6:50 p.m.

Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald share a common goal at the BMW PGA Championship this week -- to hit straight back from a sight they did not enjoy seeing.

For McIlroy it was Charl Schwartzel wearing the Masters green jacket and receiving applause up on stage at the European Tour's awards ceremony on Tuesday night.


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"It definitely hurt me a little bit," said the 22-year-old, who went from four ahead to 10 behind with a nightmare 80 at Augusta National last month. "It's tough, but I'm a big boy -- I'll get over it."

For Donald it was Ian Poulter rather than him lifting the Volvo World Match Play title on Sunday -- a victory that stopped him from becoming world No. 1 for the first time.

"I felt I should have won and I didn't," said Donald. "I was down Sunday night and Monday thinking about it. Last week was a big chance."

Now they are part of the strongest field in the history of the BMW PGA Championship -- all four major champions, all but the injured Padraig Harrington from last year's Ryder Cup team and all but Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker from the world's top nine.

The world No. 1 spot is again on the line. Not just involving Lee Westwood and Donald, but also German Martin Kaymer.

And, amazingly perhaps, Donald could even miss the halfway cut on Friday and take over at the top if the other two have bad weeks as well.

It could also develop into a straight head-to-head between him and Lee Westwood. But what he most wants, of course, is to improve on his runner-up finish behind Simon Khan a year ago.

"I had the tournament kind of in my hands and I let it go on 17," the 33-year-old recalled. "I hit a horrible drive there, made seven and that was that."

Donald won a week later in Madrid and now hopes to have the same sequence.

"Last week was extremely disappointing and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth to finish second,” he said. “I'd rather have lost in the first round in a way, although that's a little bit extreme. You think about what went wrong -- it was just fatigue --  what you could have done differently and hopefully you learn.

"It does get a little bit frustrating when you have opportunities and you can't quite finish them off (he has had only one stroke-play victory in the last five years),” he explained. "But I don't drag previous weeks to the next week. By the time I tee off, I'll be ready to go."

And Donald is comforted by the thought that nobody in the world can match his current consistency -- eight straight top-10 finishes starting with his WGC-Accenture Match Play triumph in Arizona in February.

Asked whom he rated the best player in the world, he typically chose his words carefully.

"I think I'm the most consistent right now,” he said. “I think I've proven that over the last few months."

Westwood might care to remind his Ryder Cup teammate that he won his two previous tournaments prior to losing to Poulter in the Volvo quarterfinals on Saturday -- and, of course, that he is still No. 1 because Donald could not finish off two recent events.

At Wentworth, though, Westwood’s 10th-place finish last season was his best since he was runner-up to Colin Montgomerie 11 years ago.

"Sometimes you just can't explain it," he said. "Why play it well in October in the World Match Play and make umpteen birdies, and then here in May and your best finish is second?"

The European Tour's flagship event is open to the world's top 50, but the only Americans in the field are John Daly and Anthony Kang. They are ranked 818th and 489th respectively.

"I suppose that's only slightly disappointing thing for the week," added Westwood. "It would be nice to see a few of the younger Americans come over and support the event. It's a massive tournament, lots of money, a prestigious title and there's loads of world ranking points."

There was no need for the Americans in question to make it just a one-week trip, either.

Eleven of them turned down last week's Volvo Match Play in Spain before the sponsors got an acceptance from Ryan Moore, who lost his two games to Donald and Ross Fisher and went home.

Westwood and McIlroy, of course, did not go to the Players Championship in Florida two weeks ago, but PGA Tour regulations played a part in that.



McIlroy's central challenge is that which faces anyone who strives to be the best and fails; namely, to learn from failure and not retreat, but put oneself in position to win again. This requires courage, for it means being vulnerable to the possibility of failing again. For more see my recent blog on Psychology Today's website, "Psychoanalysis 3.0."