Former world No.1 Luke Donald eyes elusive Heritage win

England's Luke Donald. Picture: Jane Barlow
England's Luke Donald. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Former world No 1 Luke Donald hopes to slot the final piece of the puzzle into place by claiming an overdue victory in the RBC Heritage this week.

Donald has recorded six top-threes in his last 11 starts at Harbour Town Golf Links, including finishing runner-up in 2016, 2014, 2011 and 2009.

The 39-year-old took a one-shot lead into the final round 12 months ago, but could only card a closing 71 as South Africa’s Branden Grace fired a 67 to claim his first PGA Tour title.

It was the third time Donald failed to convert a 54-hole lead into a win in the event, in which 29 of his last 31 rounds have been level par or better.

“I’m always excited to come here, I love this event,” the world No 96 told a pre-tournament press conference. “It’s certainly a course that suits my game.

“I’ve had a lot of success in the last eight years, I’ve done everything but win. It’s like a puzzle, this course to me. I think you really have to think your way around it very well. You certainly don’t need to overpower this golf course.

“A lot of strategy is involved and certainly it’s in the best condition I’ve ever seen it, despite the hurricane [hundreds of trees were downed by Hurricane Matthew last year]. In certain regards the thinning out of the trees has really helped the condition of the golf course.”

Donald’s best finish in six events this season is a tie for 17th in the Genesis Open and he comes into the week on the back of a tie for 69th in the Houston Open.

For the second year running he failed to qualify for the Masters and added: “I was disappointed not to be playing last week in Augusta.

“This last month has been kind of a strange run of events for me. I didn’t play well at Tampa, which is usually a good event for me, which was disappointing. And then I wasn’t in the Match Play, I wasn’t in Augusta. So I added Houston, which I’ve never really played very well at.

“It’s not the greatest run up to this event that I’ve ever had, but there were certainly some weeks on the West Coast and in Florida where I was very, very encouraged about my game. I’ve certainly been working hard and hopefully coming back to a place like this where I’ve had some success I can get it going.”

Donald was delighted to see his good friend Sergio Garcia win the Masters last week and has taken encouragement from the Spaniard claiming his first major at the 74th attempt.

“I still believe that I have the ability to win a major and win more tournaments,” Donald, who has played 53 majors, said. “I’m not hanging up the clubs yet. I’m very committed to working hard on the game and getting past a little bit of a lull in my results the last couple of years.

“It’s certainly not been the golf that I wanted. But I’m working hard on it. And I still believe that I’m good enough. Anyone who can get to number one in the world for over a year I think has the ability to bounce back and hopefully I will.”

Eight of the top 30 in the world rankings are competing in South Carolina, including 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and Scotland’s 
Russell Knox, who finished tied second with Donald last year.

On the European Tour, South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang will seek to defend his Trophee Hassan II title at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat this week.

Wang won his maiden European Tour title in Morocco last year by beating Spain’s Nacho Elvira in a play-off.

The last six winners of the event – Wang, Richie Ramsay, Alejandro Canizares, Marcel Siem, Michael Hoey and David Horsey – are all in the field.

Aberdeen’s Ramsay opted not to defend his title last year in order to spend time with his baby daughter.