Nick Faldo’s victory at the 1996 US Masters remains the last by an Englishman, a span of 17 years and 68 tournaments during which time Donald and Lee Westwood have been ranked world No 1 and Northern Ireland has produced three separate major champions in Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, not to mention Scotland’s Paul Lawrie winning the Open Championship.
Donald has slipped to sixth in the rankings and has never recorded a top-ten finish in the US Open but believes he can contend this week at Merion, a course which has not hosted a major since 1981.
“There’s always more attention, more requests of your time when you are world number one and that takes management and that’s tough,” Donald said.
“But within myself the pressures are just the same. I want to win a major championship just as badly this year as when I was number one. It’s about managing those expectations, managing those feelings and knowing what you have is good enough.
“It always crosses your mind whether it’s going to happen, but you always go back to the successes you’ve had. I was able to get to No 1 and win seven times [on the European Tour] and you try to focus on that.
“You just have to be confident that you are going in the right direction. You’re trying to focus on positives rather than why you have not done anything.
“It just takes one good week. My results have not been as consistent as I would like. The last couple of years I got so much out of my game and now I feel I am due for that. It just has not happened but I am excited and this week is the start of a run of big tournaments coming up.”
Donald admits driving is not his strong suit and that he needs to be more accurate on US Open-style courses, but with Merion only 6,996 yards and offering plenty of scoring opportunities from 100 yards in, the Ryder Cup star has reason to be confident.
“When I am playing well I am going to be in contention no matter what course it is,” added the 35-year-old, who has missed the cut in two of his last four US Open appearances.
The likes of Donald, Westwood, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter at least have an ally in defending champion Webb Simpson, who believes players who have not won a major title are unfairly criticised. “I’ve said it to people a lot this year that guys who haven’t won majors who are great players get a bad rap,” said Simpson, who is trying to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to successfully defend his US Open title.
“The fact is there’s only four of these a year, and it’s so hard to have your game peak and beat the best players in the world one out of four times a year. It’s so hard to put so much emphasis on four golf tournaments. So many factors have to be going well for you to compete and even get in contention on a week like this.”
Matteo Manassero is already the youngest winner of the BMW PGA Championship, and this week the Italian can become the second youngest winner ever of the US Open.
Manassero was just 20 years and 37 days old when he won a four-hole play off at Wentworth last month, and will be 21 days older if the year’s second major championship concludes on schedule on Sunday.
John McDermott was 19 years old when he won in 1911, while Rory McIlroy was 22 when he triumphed by eight shots at Congressional two years ago.
The Italian has made the cut in his last two US Open appearances and believes this year’s venue of Merion could suit his game.
“Some holes are really long, others are just wedges in so there is a real mix of holes and that’s what makes this a really nice course,” Manassero said. “You have to be sharp off the tee and with your wedges.
“I think it could suit me but basically it just suits whoever hits the ball well this week. Being this soft it is not going to be about bounce, it is just going to be about hitting good shots.
“The ball will stop and then it’s about putting and chipping. The US Open is always a real challenge and it will be again this year.”