Westwood and Donald keen to play some links golf again in Scottish Open

luke donald
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Before getting in some practice at Castle Stuart this week, Luke Donald also spent time at Royal St. George's and several other nearby links courses.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, July 06, 2011 | 2:08 p.m.

The world No. 1 spot is on the line again, but there is a bigger picture for Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the Barclays Scottish Open this week.

From the new Castle Stuart course near Inverness, attention will switch next Monday all the way down to Sandwich in Kent and to the potentially career-changing British Open.

They will both have Claret Jug favorite Rory McIlroy to deal with there, of course, but the two English stars hope that playing competitively on a links course the week before will pay massive dividends as they both seek their first major title.

"If you play well this week and come out with a good result -- obviously, winning would be fantastic -- that's momentum going into next week," said Westwood. "It's 1995 since I played links golf right before the Open Championship. That was Carnoustie -- I think I'm a better player than I was back then, so we'll see what effect it has."

Although he is behind Donald in the rankings -- a top-five finish on Sunday could change that -- Westwood is ahead of him in the betting for both tournaments. That is understandable given he was third at Turnberry in 2009 and second at St. Andrews last summer, whereas Donald's best finish in 10 Opens --  he missed the cut in the first five of them -- was fifth two years ago.

Westwood was at Royal St. George's on Monday, but Donald's determination to improve his record can be gauged by the fact that he has been there too in the past week and also played three other links courses in the area -- Prince's, Rye and Royal Cinque Ports.

He also adjusted his schedule to play this week once the move from the inland Loch Lomond course was announced.

"I always felt like playing links golf leading into the British Open is very important," said Donald, who took over as No. 1 when he beat Westwood in a playoff for the BMW PGA Championship title at Wentworth in May.

"We hardly ever play links golf. It's just a different style and takes some time to adjust to -- you have to kind of re-learn and remember,” he added. "There are some golfers that don't practice that much and rely on natural ability, but I feel I have to go out there and work at it.

"This week I'll probably be even doing a little bit more than I would usually, just in preparation for next week,” he explained. "If it doesn't work out it doesn't work out, but I'll have put the time in."

Donald has Chicago-based coach Pat Goss with him, and also in attendance has been performance expert Dave Alred, best known for helping Jonny Wilkinson kick England to Rugby World Cup glory.

"Dave keeps all the stats and makes sure I'm progressing -- he's very detailed,” said Donald after a routine of trying to hit a certain number of shots to within a five-foot target. "I usually set myself three goals of what I want to accomplish for each day. That kind of keeps me motivated."

Donald is partnering Colin Montgomerie in the first two rounds and for last year's Ryder Cup captain the event is make-or-break in whether he maintains a record of playing in every Open since 1989. The leading non-exempt player earns a spot providing he finishes in the top five.

"It would rank right up there,” said Montgomerie, now 285th in the world. "It's the last throw of the dice here (he finished last in a qualifying event last month) and given the strength of the field it's very difficult.

"I've got to perform really to the top of my ability. It's a challenge and I don't want to miss the Open, I really don't,” he added. "I've got a good draw with Luke Donald and Peter Hanson, two of my Ryder Cup team, and hopefully they can pull me along to bigger and better things."

If it happens, Montgomerie will be only too happy to take the 625-mile drive south.

The line-up also includes last year's U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington -- his first time in the Scottish Open since 1999 -- three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and former Open and U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. With Mickelson's fellow American Matt Kuchar making the trip as well, there are five of the world's top nine in action.