By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Just as Justin Rose said he was inspired by Adam Scott's win at the Masters, Luke Donald says he can draw motivation from both his friends.
He played with Rose on Sunday at Merion and watched as he became the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Donald, who spent more than a year as the world's No. 1 player, shot a 75 but ended up tied for eighth -- his first top-10 finish ever in the season's second major.
"I come away with some positive feelings," Donald said. "I got in position in a U.S. Open. I haven't really done that in my career. So there's definitely positives. I know what I need to work on. I need to continue to get better in my ball-striking and control that trajectory and that line.
"I think Adam and Justin have similar games. They're very good tee to green. Occasionally their Achilles heel is the short game and the putting. Sometimes great ball striking can trump that, even at a U.S. Open."
Donald, who closed with a 33, got off to an extremely slow start on Sunday with a string of four straight bogeys. The streak started at the third hole where he pulled a driver and ended up hitting one of the people working the scoreboard in the elbow.
"And she was in some pain and felt a little bit faint, and I felt a little bit faint, too, watching it," Donald said. "Unfortunately you never like that to happen, and it was a very tough break for her."
Donald, who gave the woman a signed glove, wouldn't go so far as to say the accident contributed to the next three bogeys, though.
"I felt pretty bad at the time," he said. "But it was business as usual in the fourth. Obviously I played that stretch pretty poorly. But I don't really use that as an excuse."
Justin Rose (left) and Luke Donald are each seeking their first major win (Getty Images).
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- The All-England pairing of Luke Donald and Justin Rose has just teed off in Sunday's final round. Each player would love nothing more than to end their country's drought at the U.S. Open.
The last English winner came in 1970 when Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine. Since then, the only runner-up finish by an Englishman came in 1988 when Nick Faldo lost to Curtis Strange in a playoff at The Country Club.
Faldo was also the last Englishman to win a major of any kind with his win in 1996 at the Masters. Since then, the English are 0 for 65.
Donald and Rose are each at 1 over, two strokes off the lead held by Phil Mickelson.
Donald's last win on the PGA TOUR was at Tampa Bay in 2012. The former No. 1 has two top-10s this season, including a tie for third at the RBC Heritage.
He feels his game is ready to win a major.
"I feel like for the most part those last three rounds I've played some solid golf," said Donald, who suffered a double bogey on his final hole in Saturday's third round to drop out of the lead. "It's just going out there and trusting it."
Rose, who's last TOUR win was the 2012 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, also likes his position going into the final round.
"One or two shots on this golf course can disappear in a heartbeat," Rose said. "There's a lot of momentum swings out here. I feel like I'm in great position.
"If you would have said to me, Thursday morning, hey, this is where you're going to be entering Sunday, I would absolutely have taken it."
Luke Donald shot 71 on Saturday and will start the final round two back. (Kinniard/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Luke Donald planned to forget the last two holes he played on Saturday and dwell on the first 16 that got him into the lead at the U.S. Open.
The bogey-double bogey finish was hardly what he'd hoped. But even with the stumble, Donald is still just two strokes behind Phil Mickelson, contending for what would be his first major championship.
"I played a solid round today other than those last two holes," said Donald, who stands 1 over entering the final round after Saturday's 71. "Could have been even better. Through 16 holes, I could have been 4 or 5 under and really was playing as good a golf as I played for awhile.
"Pretty much in control my ball and I'll forget about those two holes and carry on tomorrow."
Donald, who is trying to end an English drought at the U.S. Open that stretches back to Tony Jacklin's win in 1970, hit his tee shots right on both those holes. He acknowledged the errant shots might have been due to a bit of fatigue after a week that started with two weather delays of more than four hours and necessitated the first three rounds carry over into the next day.
"I had to get a little extra out of the 2-iron," Donald said. "And my poor swings is when I attack too hard from the top and I get out of sync and they go right. And unfortunately those holes are playing tough. I should have done better. It was disappointing."
So was the approach at the 18th hole, another 2-iron that settled in dense rough. Donald sent his third shot over the green, chipped on and two-putted.
"I had to carry 229, I think, to get to just over that false front," Donald said. "Again, that's a good 2-iron for me. And I just went at it too hard from the top and that's my kind of miss at the moment is just to the right.
"The rough has been tough this week, but I've never seen a lie like that. It was unfortunate, I didn't deserve much better, I shouldn't have been over there, but if I had a decent lie, I probably would have had a putt for four."
Luke Donald is bidding to become the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since 1970. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- He used three words instead of just one, as the reporter had asked. But "up and down" was certainly an apt description of the 72 Luke Donald shot in the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday.
Donald made more bogeys than he did pars or birdies as Merion grew increasingly difficult in the second round. But when he signed his scorecard, the Englishman was even par for the first 36 holes and just three strokes off the lead -- with just two players ahead of him.
"I would love to be a couple better, but certainly I think come the end of round two, I'm going to be in a good place," Donald said.
Donald had to come back to Merion at 7:15 Friday morning to complete the first round. For much of the morning he was leading until he made bogeys on two of his last three holes to finish with a 68 that left him one stroke behind Phil Mickelson.
Donald had just over an hour between when he finished the first round and teed off in the second. He started on the 11th hole and got back to 4 under for the tournament with birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 but Donald was undone by a front-nine stretch that saw him bogey both par 5s, as well as three other holes.
"But you try not to panic in U.S. Opens; you try to take each hole as it comes," he said. "It was nice to make a birdie on 9."
Donald is encouraged by the nine birdies he's made over the first two rounds -- a stat that leads the field. Five of those have come on the par 3s but Donald is 2 over on the par 5s this week.
The former world No. 1 said Merion's greens are still very soft but the pin positions are definitely tougher than they were in the first round. Donald has managed to keep the ball in the fairway, hitting all but six over the first two rounds, and 22 of 36 greens in regulation. A total of 56 putts doesn't hurt, either.
"I think Merion is holding its own, for sure," Donald said. "I just feel like when you have wet conditions, the fairways become that much wider, the greens become wider, too. I just think it's going to help someone a little bit more because it's wet. But obviously the scoring probably is not showing that right now, but we'll have to see come the weekend."
Donald has yet to post a top-10 in a U.S. Open. He's contending now, though, and he could become the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Hazeltine National.
"I'm excited to be in contention, and have a chance," Donald said. "Obviously I haven't played very well, but when I saw this place last week, I thought it was a good fit for my game. And obviously it's nice to come here and feel like I'm swinging pretty well and I've got a chance.
"So hopefully I can throw a good one in tomorrow and really be in the mix come Sunday."
Luke Donald is one of five players in red numbers after the first round of the U.S. Open.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- The closing bogey was unfortunate but Luke Donald certainly won't have time to dwell on it.
The Englishman will only have a little over an hour before he heads back to the 11th tee to begin his second round in the U.S. Open. He planned to get a quick bite to eat, regroup and head back to the practice range.
"I think it's good to have a good turnaround," Donald. said. "I'll still be warm."
Donald actually had owned sole possession of the lead when darkness forced suspension of the first round at 8:16 p.m. Thursday evening after two weather delays totaling more than four hours. He had just birdied the 13th hole, his third straight, to get to 4 under and slip ahead of Phil Mickelson.
Donald returned to face the teeth of Merion in totally different weather conditions on Friday morning, though. The wind had changed, the air was damp and the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees. Donald ended up three-putting two of his last three holes to shoot a 68 that left him one off the lead.
"I didn't hit a poor drive on 14, it was still a good drive and it left me probably a 4- or 3-iron into that hole," Donald said. "So very different to yesterday. I'm guessing a lot of the guys were hitting 3-wood and probably a short to mid-iron. So it made 14, 15, 17 a lot harder.
"Sort of made 16 and 18 easier. That's why it's a little disappointing to come off those two holes making bogey, despite hitting the greens. So, but certainly those last five holes are very, very tough."
Donald, the former world No. 1 looking for his first major championship, said the practice rounds he played at Merion last week were very valuable. He has never posted a top-10 finish in nine previous U.S. Open.
"Felt like it's a course where it wasn't too demanding in terms of having to hit a lot of drivers," Donald said. "I think that put a lot of irons into my hands off tees and I just felt like it was a little bit more suited to my style of play."
Donald has never finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Luke Donald has never won a major championship. At the U.S. Open, he’s never even finished in the top 10.
A sub-7,000 yard Merion Golf Club might have been a welcoming sight -- until torrential saturated the property and, no pun intended, dampened his spirits and with it possibly his chances.
“In a way the weather brings in a lot more players to have an opportunity,” Donald said Tuesday. “It makes the course a little bit easier. I would have liked to have seen it firmer. And I think as a top player you want the place to play as tough as it possibly can.”
This tournament has also been tough on Donald.
In his last six U.S. Opens, the former world No. 1 has missed the cut in half of them. Two of them he hasn’t been a factor in, and he withdrew from another with an injury.
His best career finish was a tie for 12th in 2006 at Winged Foot.
“In U.S. Opens usually success comes from hitting a lot of fairways and hitting a lot of greens,” Donald said. “And I think my game is more from the hole backwards.”
With that in mind, Donald, who has also battled some nagging injuries this year (back and a thumb infection), got most of his practice here done over two days last week.
“The two things we focused on were tons of work from 140 yards and in and tons of distance control,” said Donald’s coach Pat Goss, who accompanied Donald, along with a local caddie, in two 7-8hour practice sessions at Merion last Wednesday and Thursday. “He hit more balls than he usually hits. Not many of them were between the 9-iron and 4-iron.”
Donald added that he expects to his driver on only five holes this week -- Nos. 4, 5, 6, 16 and 18 -- and there will be an emphasis on his wedge game.
“The way I approach (the course) won't change too much,” Donald said.
Neither has his outlook despite having never won a major.
“The pressures are just the same,” Donald said. “I want to win a Major championship just as badly this year as when I was No. 1. It's about managing those expectations, managing those feelings and knowing what you have is good enough.”
Luke Donald received his MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) on Friday at Buckingham Palace.
The MBE is an order of chivalry – it was established by George V in 1917 -- which honors civilians and service personnel for public service and other distinctions.
Donald was recognized for his accomplishments in golf, including spending a cumulative 55 weeks to date at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings.
During the 2011 season, Luke was the first to top the money lists on both the PGA TOUR and European Tour. He has also has helped raise funds for the First Tee organization, an association which has to date introduced the game of golf and its inherent values to the more than 7 million young people.
“I am truly honored to be awarded an MBE by her Majesty,” Donald said. “Both personally and professionally, 2011 and 2012 were very significant seasons for me and I’m touched that my accomplishments have been recognized in this way.”
He received this award in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of his contributions to professional golf and his role as a global ambassador for Britain.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- No one has ever successfully defended at THE PLAYERS Championship, where Matt Kuchar will begin his quest to become the first to do so this afternoon.
With pristine conditions -- sunny skies, hardly a breath of wind -- scoring has been good so far in the opening round at TPC Sawgrass. Will it continue? Here is a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Lee Westwood (1:18 p.m. ET): The Englishman has knocked on the door a few times here -- most recently in 2010 when he was in contention going into Sunday before shooting 74 to finish fourth. He also finished fifth and sixth in 1998 and 1999 and given his ball-striking abilities should be a factor again.
Phil Mickelson (1:28 p.m. ET): As difficult as this tournament -- or Mickelson -- is to predict, Lefty has been largely consistent if nothing else since his win here in 2007. He's finished in the top 25 every other year the last five and for his career has eight top 25s in the event.
Webb Simpson (1:28 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion admitted to a lack of confidence earlier this season. Then he finished second at Hilton Head, where he lost in a playoff. He's missed three of four cuts here, however.
Sergio Garcia (1:39 p.m. ET): The 2008 champion (he also finished second the year before) has just one finish in the top 20 since, but he has played well this year with three top 10s. His ball-striking should work well here, but with Garcia it all comes down to how well he putts.
Luke Donald (1:39 p.m. ET): The former world No. 1 finished sixth last year and tied for fourth the year before with all of last last eight rounds and 11 of his last 12 on the Stadium Course at par or better.
Tiger Woods (1:49 p.m. ET): For all his accomplishments, Woods has won THE PLAYERS just once, in 2001. Though he has three wins this season, he has just one top 10 here since that lone victory a dozen years ago.
Matt Kuchar (1:49 p.m. ET):The defending champion has finished in the top 15 in three of the last four years and in 2004 he tied for 16th. This season, Kuchar has four top 10s, including a win.
Brandt Snedeker (1:49 p.m. ET): He was admittedly exhausted after being in contention at the Masters and subsequently missed the cut in Hilton Head. He was also one of the hottest players in the game before getting injured in February. Snedeker has struggled here, missing the cut each of the last four years.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- With increasing wind and bad weather headed this way, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell were among those to take advantage of a morning tee time Friday at Harbour Town.
Donald, who lost here in a playoff two years ago, carded a 68 to enter the weekend 5 under and near the top of the leaderboard.
McDowell was one better with a 67 to get to 4 under.
Here's a look at what they had to say after their rounds.
Donald on feeling better about his game in the second round: "(Thursday) was a little bit of a struggle. I didn't really have much control over the trajectory of my shots. The greens are still holding, which is nice. So you can attack some of the pins.
"I managed my game very well. I kind of didn't feel very comfortable over the ball, but I missed it in spots that I needed to miss it. It wasn't terrible golf, it just wasn't controlling trajectory like I'd like to, when you know you're not under control."
McDowell on how Harbour Town suits his style of play: It is a golf course that sets up well for me. You don't have to move it very far off the tee, but you have to position it really well. And you have to play patient golf, which suits my type of play.
"It doesn't need to be long. Modern technology has not sort of made this golf course old‑fashioned in any shape or form. Sometimes the fairway is not good enough, you have to be on the left side or the right side, 300 yards might be too much and 250 might not be enough at times. The guy that wins here this week will have control of his golf ball."