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Golf: Donald sees major hope at Merion

AFP
ANALYST
News
589   //    11 Jun 2013, 23:59 IST

Luke Donald is hoping that the shortest and tightest US Open course in years will open the door for him to finally win a major tournament.

At just 6,996 yards, Merion Golf Club bucks the trend that has seen major championship courses stretched to well over 7,000 yards in a bid to counter the big hitters. But it does demand accuracy.

And with the heavy rain that has fallen in the area over the last few days, wedge play and pinpoint approach shots will be even more at a premium.

That’s where Donald sees his chances. Not among the longest hitters off the tee, the 35-year-old Englishman is renowned for his short game and putting.

Merion, he believes, could be tailor made for him.

“I would like to have seen it firmer. I think wetter, damper conditions bring more of the field in play,” Donald said.

“But certainly I like a course where I’m only hitting five drivers, a course where I’m hitting a lot of wedges in my hands, playing to my strengths, where I feel like from 100 yards in I’m pretty good.

“This course demands a lot of good wedge play. Obviously you’ve still got to do what’s pretty important in US Opens — hit fairways, hit greens. That will be a big key for me if I want to be successful.”

Being successful at the US Open and in majors in general is something that former world number one Donald has struggled with over the years.

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In eight previous US Opens, his best finish is a tie for 12th in 2006. In the last four years, which included a time when he was top ranked in the world, he has gone: missed cut, tie for 47th, tie for 45th and missed cut.

Hardly inspiring statistics and ones that Donald is at pains to explain.

“I think in US Opens usually success comes from hitting a lot of fairways and hitting a lot of greens. And I think my game is more from the hole backwards. I’ve always kind of worked that way,” Donald said.

“This year I’ve made a little bit more of a conscious effort to try and change that, to get a little bit more control, to work some things around, spending a little bit more time on the range working on really solidifying a few things.

“And it hasn’t happened yet, but statistics will show I’ve improved in those areas. And I’ll be starting to hit more greens, having more control, more control of my ball flight. And that’s what you need out here to be successful.”

Donald has had a poor 2013 season to date by his own standards.

In March, he failed to defend his title at the Tampa Bay Championship and finished in a tie for fourth.

He then missed his first-ever cut in an European Tour event at the Malaysian Open. It was his first missed cut in 119 career European Tour starts.

As the two-time defending champion, Donald then missed the halfway cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth after shooting rounds of 78 and 72, missing the cut by four strokes.”

At least this time round at Merion, he will be able to come into the tournament somewhat more under the radar as expectaions on him are lower than before, especially when he was ranked number one.

“There’s always more attention, more requests of your time and that takes management and that’s tough,” he admitted.

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