Luke Donald to make PGA TOUR return at QBE Shootout
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Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
NAPLES, Fla. – Luke Donald hasn’t played a shot on the PGA TOUR since he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage in April, but he will tee it up with partner Andrew Landry at the QBE Shootout starting Friday.
Donald, who will turn 41 later this week, missed six months with a lower back injury in 2018. In nine starts he made just three cuts and earned 42 FedExCup points, and he will start the 2019 season on a major-medical extension.
“The state of the game is unknown,” he said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “We’ll see. I’ve been able to work hard the last couple months with no pain. I’ve certainly been putting in the time, but to bring it from your home course out here into a competitive situation, we’ll see how it goes.”
Donald will get 15 starts this season in which to earn 336 FedExCup points. While there are no points on offer at the unofficial QBE, which he’ll play with partner Andrew Landry, he’s hoping the tournament stokes his competitive fire.
“It’s nice to get some reps in but without as much pressure,” he said.
The 30th QBE features 24 players and 12 two-person teams, only two of which return from last year. Tony Finau and Lexi Thompson, the only LPGA player here, reprise their partnership from last year, as will defending champions Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker. There are two former FedExCup champions, Billy Horschel (2014) and Brandt Snedeker (’12), who, fittingly, will play together as a team.
Donald, a five-time TOUR winner, reached No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking in the spring of 2011 and stayed there, on and off, for 56 weeks.
This week he’s 548th.
His health has been part of the problem, and Donald was hospitalized with chest pains prior to teeing off at The RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia, in November, 2017. He withdrew and underwent testing, which ruled out a heart attack. (He decided it was the remains of a stomach flu given to him by his kids.)
The other setback: his decision to part ways with his longtime coach, Pat Goss. (They’ve since reunited.) It was Goss, then the men’s golf coach at Northwestern, who recruited Donald to go to college in America, and their partnership continued after Donald turned pro. But in 2013, Donald began working with Chuck Cook.
A little over a year later, he went back to Goss.
“The impetus was to … hit my driver a little bit straighter and gain a little bit of distance,” Donald said at the RBC Heritage. “I thought that would give me a better chance to win majors. Certainly, Chuck’s method was very different to what I had been doing, and after 13 months, what he was trying to get me to do, I couldn’t do.
“But in trying to do it,” Donald added, “I got into some bad habits that took a long time to get out. I’m certainly not blaming Chuck. He’s a wonderful teacher; it just wasn’t the right fit for me.”
Donald had a couple starts on the European Tour in the fall, but didn’t play well. He’s been more encouraged by some of his rounds at home, in South Florida.
“I’ve had a mixture,” he said. “Some good. I had a 64 at Medalist the other day.”
As for turning 41 on Friday, he said he had no big plans. “I’ll be playing the first round here. I’ll have dinner with some friends when I get back next week.”
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.