Donald believes fun and freedom will provide key to unlocking his first major
LUKE Donald left the Highlands a year ago as the Scottish Open champion and was widely tipped as the man to beat in the following week’s Open at Royal St George’s. Instead, the world No 1 missed the cut in Kent and has come up empty-handed in three further majors.
In the most recent of those, Donald failed to survive another halfway cut, this time in the US Open in San Francisco. It has proved the catalyst for the Englishman deciding it’s time for a shake-up as he prepares for his latest bid to make that breakthrough in the majors in next week’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
Normally very methodical about about placing the main emphasis on his short game when it comes to practising, Donald has been paying more attention to his swing to get rid of some old habits he felt had crept into his game.
On the eve of launching his title defence in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event at Castle Stuart, the 34-year-old also revealed he’ll be heading to Lancashire next week adopting a new mental approach, having come to the conclusion that his failure so far to really get into the mix in majors has, in part, been his own doing.
“When I’m playing I’m laughing and joking, but I’ve realised that [at majors] I do get a bit more anxious, a little bit more uptight, a little bit more agitated,” admitted Donald.
“People around me notice it. I’ve got to try to control that and that’s going to be the priority – to try to play with a bit more freedom, a little bit more fun. I’ve realised it for a while and it’s just a constant process of trying to work on that and improve every time.
“It’s got to come from me. I work with [mental coach] Dave Alfred, but that’s more about being diligent about my practice and practising efficiently.”
Donald is celebrating his 52nd week as the world No 1 but discovered during a visit to Wimbledon last Friday that feat counted for nothing when it came to him having a chat over lunch with Kylie Minogue before they watched the two men’s semi-finals from the Royal Box.
“She wasn’t aware I was a golfer, so I had to mention that to her,” he said with a smile. “Her boyfriend [Andres Velencoso] is a keen golfer and she turned to him and said, ‘he’s a professional golfer’. He said, ‘yes, I know’.”
Asked if he’d then informed the Australian pop star he was actually the world No 1, Donald added: “Well, I let her boyfriend tell her that! She was a sweet girl actually – really genuinely nice girl, down to earth and I enjoyed chatting to her.”
No player has retained the Scottish Open title in the event’s on-and-off 40-year history. Donald wouldn’t mind becoming a record breaker, insisting his win a year ago had nothing to do with his Open Championship flop at Sandwich.
“I think winning here was a good preparation – I just didn’t go to The Open and perform,” he said. “Whether that was mentally or physically, I’m not sure, but I don’t think it had any relevance to this week.
“I have much more belief in myself that I can [defend this title] after doing it [in the BMW PGA Championship] at Wentworth. The goal is to win here again and feed off some of the positives from last year.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
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Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
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