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September 10 2013

3:41 PM

Donald makes difficult coaching decision

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."


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