With the PGA TOUR set to resume its 2013-14 season the first week of January, PGATOUR.COM is previewing the top 30 players to watch heading into the new year. We'll count down one a day in December until we unveil our No. 1 player to watch on Dec. 30, the Monday of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Check out this preview of No. 23 Luke Donald and join the discussion below on how you think he'll perform in 2014. Click here for more on the top 30 players to watch in 2014.
NO. 23 PLAYER TO WATCH: LUKE DONALD
2014 OUTLOOK: Once a top-10 machine, not to mention the No. 1 payer in the world, Luke Donald had a bit of an off year in 2013. He had his fewest number of top 10s in five years with just five (compared to a career-high 14 in 2011) and mostly parted ways with longtime coach Pat Goss, who he retained only to work with on short game. Donald turned to Chuck Cook and hopes Cook can do what he did for Jason Dufner and help push him to his first major championship. Still, Donald had some very good weeks and should again this season. He was third at the RBC Heritage and fourth at the BMW Championship and missed only three cuts in 17 starts. -- Brian Wacker
THUS FAR THIS SEASON: Donald’s only start came at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, where he failed to break 70 and finished in a tie for 31st.
It's been 16 months since he sat atop the Official World Golf Ranking. If you can now separate yourself from the impossible pace he set in 2011, you're rewarded with a solid, back-end cornerstone in all formats. -- Rob Bolton
|ON THE MARK
If I had to recommend to any player's rhythm and short game technique to watch and how shots around the green and the cup were approached and executed I would recommend that Donald be the model. He does at times get a bit inconsistent from tee-to-green, and if he does ever fall short it is with the driver, but Luke is in the process of refining and improving his silky smooth and balanced swing. -- Mark Immelman
The question is not if but when will Luke wins a major championship. He does not have great length off the tee but everything else is championship caliber. Donald has a tremendous short game and might be the single-best bunker player in the world. All that screams THE PLAYERS Championship to me. -- Fred Albers
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Ball-striking has never been Donald’s forte, but he’s never seen a putt he didn’t like. But during an up-and-down 2013, Donald even struggled on the greens -- at least by his standards. He was 13th in strokes gained-putting at .529, but down from .797 (3rd) in ’12, .844 (1st) in ’11, .871 (1st) in ’10 and .933 (1st) in ’09. -- Bill Cooney
In the final round of the 2013 BMW Championship, Luke Donald holes a 39-foot birdie chip on the par-4 13th hole. Donald is moving closer to securing a spot in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where he's finished in the top 3 each of the last three years.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The only thing worse was telling his brother Christian that he didn't want him to caddy anymore.
But Luke Donald knew he needed a change. So he had to tell Pat Goss, the man who recruited Donald, brought him to Northwestern in the late 1990s and has coached him ever since, that he was replacing him with Chuck Cook.
Granted, the two would continue to work together on Donald's near-flawless short game but that didn't make the conversation any easier.
"I've had a lot of success with Pat, and I got to No. 1 and certainly would never take anything away from what we did together," Donald said. "But ... as a player you always know what you feel inside, and I want to just feel a little bit more in control of my ball when I'm over it. Hopefully the switch to Chuck, that will come about.
" ... It was a tough decision. He understood it perfectly. He's always wanted me to be as good as I can be and make those decisions that I think will make that difference in my career. It's just one of those things that was very tough but I felt like I had to do. I felt like if I didn't at least try something different, I would have regrets."
Donald said a "light went off" in his head when he played with Justin Rose in the final round of this year's U.S. Open. He was impressed with the way his fellow Englishman struck the ball, as well as the consistency, which Donald found lacking in his own game.
After he missed the cut at The Open Championship, Donald started thinking about instructors to approach. Sean Foley, who coaches Rose, Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods, was an obvious choice -- "Those guys hit a lot of quality shots," Donald explained. So he sought the instructor out.
"I work pretty hard, and I told him I wanted to work hard and I wanted to put in a lot of time, and he was worried that having a young family and all the responsibility that he has that he wouldn't be able to give me that 100 percent commitment, and I totally understand that," Donald said.
Foley suggested Cook, who has been a bit of a mentor, according to Donald. The two talked at Firestone and began working together at the PGA Championship, which happened to be won by one of Cook's students, Jason Dufner.
So far, Donald has enjoyed the work the two have done together which he calls "pretty different" than his previous swing thoughts.
"With Pat, it was a little bit more lateral movement and a little bit more flip with my hands, and now I'm really trying to get the club a little bit deeper and use a bit more turn with my bigger muscles, just take the flip out of it," Donald said. "So I'm hopefully going to be a bit more consistent tee to green and be able to control the trajectory and the line, as well.
"That's the goal, and so far I'm seeing results. I think it will take some time, but I feel like I'm taking it on board pretty quickly."
Donald was player of the year on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011 and he spent 56 weeks as the world No. 1. His reign ended in March of 2012, though, and this year he enters the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, where he has been a member for more than a decade, in real danger of missing the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time since 2008.
"I think someone who was at the pinnacle of the game not too long ago and is now 54th on the FedExCup, it's been disappointing," Donald said. "It's been very hard this year. It's been frustrating at times, and I've had to make some tough decisions. ...
"But I feel pretty good about where things are headed, and I'm excited about the future. This year I still have time to rescue it. I'm going to have to do that this week, and that's the beauty of the FedExCup. It takes one good week to kind of rescue a year. And I certainly have that opportunity this week."
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Next week’s BMW Championship will be many players’ first trip to Conway Farms, the suburban Chicago layout that will host the third event of the FedExCup Playoffs. Conway Farms has hosted a handful of national amateur events, but this will be its first PGA TOUR event.
Preparing for a new course adds a new challenge for the BMW’s elite field. The top 70 players in the FedExCup qualified for the event. The FedExCup's top 30 after the BMW will qualify for the following week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
“What works in their favor, one, is there's 70 players left in the field, so they will get out there and practice rounds won't be too tedious,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I'm looking forward as an analyst just to see this golf course. I've toured it via the Internet and looked at it. It looks marvelous, great setting. I think it's really exciting, risk-reward, a lot of cool shots coming down the stretch, and I'm sure the players have thought about it, as well.”
Conway Farms will be a home game for Luke Donald. His short-game coach, Pat Goss, tweeted Wednesday, “Day 2 of my Conway Farms short game escapades - today with the best in the world at it @LukeDonald. #funtowatch.” Goss worked with Gary Woodland the previous day.
Woodland is 14th in the FedExCup standings and seems likely to safely advance to the TOUR Championship. He was 116th in the FedExCup after the RBC Canadian Open in July, but has vaulted more than 100 points in the standings after winning the Reno-Tahoe Open and finishing T-2 at The Barclays, the first FedExCup Playoffs event. Goss and Woodland worked exclusively on the short game from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Goss tweeted.
Donald has work to do at his home course if he is to make the TOUR Championship for the fifth consecutive year. He is 54th in the FedExCup. Donald recently started working with instructor Chuck Cook, who’s instructed PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner for several years.
“I just think that Luke maybe is just having a little bit of ‑‑ just sort of a downtime,” Miller said on the teleconference. “It happens to everybody. It happened to Nicklaus, of course to Woods a couple of times and it's happened to all the great players, Mickelson, you name it. They have had times where maybe they didn't know if they wanted to unpack the suitcase and pack it that many times a year; a little bit of that, you never know.
"He'll probably come back. He has got a lot of talent. But his iron game is off, and that was always the hallmark and as a collegian and coming on TOUR, that's what he was known for was great iron play. I think his wedges are all right, but the rest of the irons are not so good.”
While Donald, a former World No. 1, seeks to regain past form, several players have had breakout performances in the FedExCup Playoffs, namely Henrik Stenson and Graham DeLaet. Stenson leads the FedExCup after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship, his first TOUR title since the 2009 PLAYERS Championship. He’s risen to sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking after falling outside the top 200 during a slump a couple years ago. Stenson will qualify for the TOUR Championship for the first time; this is his first time advancing to the BMW Championship since 2007.
“Obviously Stenson is really on a roll, and it's not just a one‑ or two‑week roll,” Miller said. “He's doing everything really well. He has the power and he has great irons. Short game has really improved, the work he's put in, and the putter is working really well.”
You know, it's fast, but he's so powerful. The guy is really put together, big guy, tall and strong, and really makes great contact and crushes the ball, really compress the ball and makes a loud noise when he hits it.
“He could possibly get to the next level next year. He might end up being a guy that will win a major or maybe a couple majors the next two years. He says he wants to put even more work into his game. Saw his interview this morning, and you know, he understands that to take it to the next level, he has to even work even harder. So I like him.”
DeLaet also is on pace for his first TOUR Championship appearance. He's fifth in the FedExCup standings after a T-2 finish at The Barclays and third-place finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship. The top five in the FedExCup standings after the BMW can clinch the FedExCup with a win at the TOUR Championship, regardless of how the players ahead of him fare in the final Playoffs event.
“I'm just absolutely flabbergasted watching that guy hit golf balls,” Chamblee said. “He's never had a golf lesson. His father showed him how to hold a golf club and then he just went about it himself. He leads the TOUR in total driving and he leads the TOUR in ball‑striking. I think it's a fabulous contrast, in my opinion, to the over‑coaching that's going on on the PGA TOUR.”
Stenson leads the FedExCup, followed by Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and DeLaet. There’s still a lot of work left to be done to win the FedExCup, though. Historic East Lake Golf Club awaits.
"You start to look at guys who on the eve of THE TOUR Championship, first of all who, have won a major championship, because that golf course, Donald Ross, re‑designed obviously by a number of people, but you have to look at quality ball‑strikers; the golf course, it's hard to hit a lot of those greens."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- The early pace has been set by Phil Mickelson. Now the question is can anyone from the afternoon wave catch him?
Here's a look at who and what to keep an eye on this afternoon from TPC Boston (all times ET):
Luke Donald, 12:22 p.m.: The once No. 1 player in the world and top-10 machine has just four top 10s this year, but he has had success here, finishing second in 2010 and third in 2011.
Sergio Garcia, 12:22 p.m.: Five years ago, Garcia finished fifth at TPC Boston. This year, he comes in looking for his first top 10 since THE PLAYERS Championship. At 59th in the FedExCup standings, however, he is safe for getting into the BMW Championship.
Rory McIlroy, 12:46 p.m.: What a difference a year makes. Last season, McIlroy was on top of the world and would win here and at the BMW Championship. This time he's just hoping to salvage what has been a mostly lost season. TPC Boston suits him well and this week could be telling.
Jason Day, Webb Simpson, 12:46p.m.: Day is playing with a sore wrist, but he has a good history here with a runner-up in 2010 and a third-place finish the following year. Likewise with Simpson, who won here in 2011.
Steve Stricker, Charl Schwartzel, 12:58 p.m.: This week marks Stricker's first Playoffs event of the year, while Schwartzel is making just his third appearance at TPC Boston (he's never finished in the top 20).
Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, 1:10 p.m.: Rose nearly forced a playoff last week before finishing one back of winner Adam Scott. Snedeker, meanwhile, is trying to regain his early-season form as he tries to become the first player to win back-to-back FedExCups.
Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, 1:10 p.m.: Given Johnson's length, TPC Boston sets up well for him. Twice he has finished in the top 5 here. Fowler, meanwhile, is coming off a top 10 last week.
Ernie Els, 1:34 p.m.: The Big Easy is on the outside looking in at 91st in the FedExCup standings. In the FedExCup era, Els has never not made it to at least the BMW Championship.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Luke Donald finished off an opening-round 67 Friday morning for his lowest score in relation to par since the third round in Tampa in March (he also had a 67 in the opening round at par-70 Firestone earlier this month).
"Made some putts when I needed to," said Donald, who had six birdies and two bogeys and had nine one-putts, including four from outside 12 feet. "I feel like I'm starting to be a bit more in control of my golf ball, and it's nice when the putter is working as well."
It couldn't have come at a better time, either.
Donald came into the week 55th in the FedExCup standings and with just four top 10s on the season -- since 2009 he's had no fewer than six in a year.
The top 70 in points following next week's event outside Boston also advance to the BMW Championship, which is being played this year at Donald's home club Conway Farms.
PGA TOUR players Luke Donald and Mark Wilson will be answering fan questions in a live video chat today at noon ET on PGATOUR.COM. Donald and Wilson will be broadcasting live in a Google+ Hangout from Conway Farms near Chicago, site of this year's BMW Championship.
Leave your questions for both players in the comments below and our host will ask the best ones during the chat.
To see all of our video chats with PGA TOUR players, fans and media, click here.
Luke Donald hits his 138-yard approach shot to 5 feet and makes the putt for birdie on the third during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. With the birdie, Donald moved into sole possession of second at 8 under, but still a distant seven strokes behind Tiger Woods.
Tee times are out for the first two rounds of the RBC Canadian Open, where Scott Piercy is trying to become just the second player in the history of golf's third-oldest tournament to successfully defend his title. The only other player to do it was Jim Furyk, who went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
Here's a closer look at the group and other notable groups to watch the first two rounds (all times ET):
Scott Piercy, Ernie Els, Luke Donald: Piercy won this tournament a year ago and also played well in 2011, finishing sixth. Els, meanwhile, has had four finishes in the top six in his last eight starts worldwide. Donald finished third in the event in 2010. They'll tee off at 12:45 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Woody Austin, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk: Austin is coming off his first victory in six years and another strong performance could get him into the FedExCup Playoffs picture. McDowell, who won the RBC Heritage earlier this season, is playing this RBC event for the first time. They'll tee off at 12:55 p.m. Thursday and 7:40 a.m. Friday.
Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson: Kuchar has a half-dozen top 10s this year, including two wins. He also finished fourth in this tournament in 2010. Snedeker enters the week off three straight finishes in the top 20 and he finished fifth the last time this event was played at Glen Abbey. They'll tee off at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and 12:45 p.m. Friday.
Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan: It has been a breakout season for Horschel, who has seven top 10s, including a first, second and third. He's cooled of late, however, with no finishes in the top 30 in his last three starts. Mahan, who was in the final pairing on Sunday at Muirfield, finished fourth here in 2004. They'll tee off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday and 12:55 p.m. Friday.