2015 Preview: Luke Donald
Welcome to the 2015 Golf Preview, where I’ll take a look at selected golfers and examine what to expect over the next twelve months. Today, we look at Luke Donald.
It’s hard to believe that 2015 will be the fourteenth year that Luke Donald has been a professional. Donald moved from England as a teenager to attend Northwestern University in Chicago, where he quickly became a player destined for life on the PGA Tour. He won the NCAA D1 men’s title in 1999, breaking the scoring record held by Tiger Woods and grabbed the Haskins Award that year as well, given out annually to the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the country. It was at Northwestern where he joined up with coach Pat Goss, who Donald stayed with after leaving Northwestern to turn pro in 2001.
Since then, Donald has won sixteen times as a professional and risen to the number one spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. Of course, Donald has also been placed at or near the top of another list that he definitely isn’t proud of: best player to never win a major championship. In previous posts, I’ve talked about how the golf community tends to overvalue majors, but with Donald, it’s always been part of the story. Donald broke things off with Goss in 2013 to work with Chuck Cook, but after a rough 2014 that saw him miss out on the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008, Donald is back with Goss and the results are already promising. Donald finished in solo third at the Nedbank Challenge to end his 2014 season, which was his first top-10 since May at the BMW PGA.
Things are looking up for a player who is far too talented to be ranked 32nd in the world.
ESPN’s Luke Donald Headshot
ESPN.com has a lot of great golf content, but their player headshots are, shall we say, a little outdated, with Ryan Moore leading the way. As such, I’m introducing the Ryan Moore headshot ranking system. Each player will get a ranking from 1-10, with 10 being the most outdated possible.
Oh man. I’m a little hesitant to give out a perfect score of ten to anyone other than Moore, but Donald is right there. In the time that I’ve been watching professional golf, I can’t remember Donald not being in good shape, so this slightly pudgy, curly haired kid staring at me isn’t Luke Donald.
Why You Should Watch
Donald hits the ball about as far as I do from the tee, which really isn’t a good thing when you’re playing against guys like Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, but even though he struggled last year, he still ranked as one of the best in the world on and around the greens. He was 7th in strokes gained putting, and you rarely ever see him leave putts short as he’s one of the most aggressive there is with the putter. He’s a joy to watch out of bunkers and he’s still got one of the smoothest swings in the game.
With the increased emphasis on distance these days, it’s pretty fun to watch a guy who can be successful without hitting driver-wedge into every green.
Donald in one GIF
Ever since he appeared on tour, I’ve loved watching Donald swing the club. The action is so smooth and it’s always a surprise to me when he actually hits a bad shot.
Now that he’s back with Goss, what can we expect in 2015?
As I mentioned above, Donald is too talented of a player to be ranked 32nd in the world and after missing out on the Ryder Cup, you know that he’s going to be motivated to make sure that never happens again. When he moved away from Goss and went to Cook, I didn’t really understand the switch because it wasn’t like he was struggling on the course and desperately needed a change. When you get to the number one spot in the OWGR, you’re doing something right and it just seemed to me like the move was unnecessary.
The question around Donald has always been about him winning a major, but after last year, it’s fair to say that he’s actually under the radar as he approaches 2015. For someone who has always been so consistent at this level, it’s hard for me to believe that he won’t return to form.