Jamie Donaldson. Remember him? The player who hit a majestic shot to clinch Europe’s Ryder Cup victory at Gleneagles in 2014 has become something of a forgotten man. From the highs of that memorable week in Perthshire and finishing fourth in the Race to Dubai a couple of months later, the Welshman has encountered some lows in the intervening period.
Just over three years ago, he came close to seeing his career finish after suffering a nasty hand injury following an accident with a chainsaw.
At the end of the following year, he clung on to his European Tour card by the skin of his teeth by finishing fourth in the final regular event of the season, the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama. That Donaldson still retains full playing privileges for his home circuit is down to the fact he is in the top 40 on the career money list.
After a wretched season, he finished 173rd in the Race to Dubai last year. He has not played since carding an 80 at Carnoustie in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and has slipped to 675th in the world rankings.
The 43-year-old’s absence for close to six months has been due to the fact he is recovering from wrist surgery. He has enjoyed an opportunity to try his hand at commentating for Sky Sports Golf, which he has taken to like a duck to water. However, Donaldson is keen to get back to doing what he loves best in the game. And he woul d love to add to his three European Tour title triumphs.
“When I had my accident with a chainsaw as I chopping down a tree, I was very lucky as I was only out for about two weeks with that,” he said.
“If I hadn’t had protective clothing on, I’d have taken every one of my fingers off. I went halfway into one of them and that was it. I was playing a fortnight after.
“The wrist surgery I had in November was something I needed to get done.
“I was having three cortisones every year, maximum doses to a point where they just weren’t working. There was quite a lot of different things wrong with it, but it was wear and tear pretty much.
“I’m lucky, really, because there are guys in their 20s or early 30s having wrist surgery whereas I’ve had it in my early 40s.
“Hopefully I can get back playing pain-free, but it’s a slow process and, to be honest, I had been hoping to be back playing by now.
“I have to take it easy. Providing I’m pain-free, I feel as though I can still compete. I’ve been doing loads of rehab and hopefully I can get back to tournament-winning ways.
“If I could win this year that would be a massive achievement. I’d be off and running again and that would be huge. To get into the Race to Dubai at the end of the season would be another huge achievement from where I’ve been.”
Donaldson, who was born in Pontypridd before moving to Macclesfield, qualified for the 2014 Ryder Cup under his own steam, helped by a second-place finish in the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier that year, then a victory in the penultimate points-counting event, the Czech Masters.
He was a revelation for Paul McGinley in Perthshire, winning two points with Lee Westwood in foursomes before securing victory for Europe as he beat former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley in the singles. His wedge from 146 yards to a foot at the 15th on the PGA Centenary Course finished off Tom Watson’s US side in style. It was voted the European Tour Shot of the Year, in fact.
“It’s just the best week of your life,” said Donaldson as he recalled being part of an eventual 16½-11½ triumph. “It beats all the majors. The Masters is an unbelievable event, but it is a long way down in second place to the Ryder Cup.
“Obviously the better the play the more of a buzz you get out of it. But you just want the team to win and you want to be a part of that.
“For me, it was really special to hit that shot at the time. To get it as close as I did was fantastic. It was the icing on the cake to have a 75 per cent win record in my first Ryder Cup followed by being part of a winning team, which is the most important thing. You just want to celebrate with the lads, get absolutely paralytic and have a right good laugh, which is exactly what everyone did at Gleneagles.”
Being a member of the Radio 5 Live team for last year’s match at Le Golf National in France whetted Donaldson’s appetite to try out some commentary work for Sky Sports Golf. “I’ve been enjoying it and until I’m ready to play again, I will be forever grateful for any opportunities that come my way,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of people and I’ve enjoyed the craic. While I’m not playing, it has been absolutely brilliant. I’m doing something different and something I might do when I stop playing – if there’s an opportunity.”