Luke Donald emerges from his winter hiatus at this week's Northern Trust Open and 2013 is a big year for the former world No. 1 who has majors on his mind.
Donald was the main man in golf in 2011, a stellar season that brought four wins, including the WGC-Accenture World Match Play, the PGA Tour Money List title and the world No. 1 ranking. A big year indeed, followed up by in his own words "a solid year" in 2012. He saw the rampant Rory McIlroy and revitalised Tiger Woods power ahead of him in the rankings, not that that caused him too much alarm as the ranking system means that even any slight dip from a brilliant year will see a fall in the rankings.
"The rankings are tough because you basically have to at least match what you did in the season previously not to fall back," he said. "Last year was solid for me but I lost so many points because I had such a great year in 2011. It's very hard to keep up. Rory's going to see some of that this year."
Luke Donald's major record
- Masters: 2005 - T3, 2006 - T42, 2007 - T10, 2008 - Cut, 2009 - T38, 2010 -Cut, 2011 - T4, 2012 T32
US Open: 2005 - T57, 2006 - T12, 2007 - Cut, 2008 - WD, 2009 - Cut, 2010 - T47, 2011 - T45, 2012 - Cut
Open: 2005 - T52, 2006 - T35, 2007 - T63, 2008 - DNP, 2009 - T5, 2010 - T11, 2011 - Cut, 2012 - T5
US PGA: 2005 - T66, 2006 - T3, 2007 - T23, 2008 - DNP, 2009 - T43, 2010 - Cut, 2011- T8, 2012 - T32
Now based in Florida, Donald is convinced he can get back to the top of the golfing tree but of more importance is major championship success. He, along with Lee Westwood, is in danger of being bracketed with Colin Montgomerie as being a great player never to win a major. Last year was poor in terms of a major challenge for Donald, a top-five at the Open was the only worthwhile effort. Even in 2011, when he finished fourth at the Masters and eighth at the US PGA, he did not look like breaking his duck.
Donald's best finish in a major is third (2005 Masters and 2006 US PGA), which for a player of his talent is simply not good enough. It's clear his major record rankles with Donald.
He's enlisted a part-time, highly likely unpaid, mental coach in the guise of Michael Jordan. 'His Airness' as he is known, is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time and a multiple NBA winner. Winning came as second nature to Jordan. The pair have struck up a friendship and play golf socially (Jordan does not do socially and is an accomplished player). And it is during their money-matches that Donald picks the brain of Jordan.
"He's good for the mind," Donald said. "He's been making sure that I'm ready mentally. It's been good to pick Michael's brains and find out what he was thinking about when he was playing basketball. He's always trying to play mind games. He doesn't like to lose."
Donald showed that he can win under pressure when taking the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in 2011, as it guaranteed him victory in the PGA Tour Money List.
There are still those who feel he is not mentally strong enough to get the job done at the majors, but he is leaving no stone unturned as he has made tweaks to his glorious swing in the off-season. Out of Bounds' untrained eye would not be able to spot the changes, they've been described as 'subtle', but he has worked tirelessly on them with coach Pat Goss.
The aim is to be competitive at the majors and with swing changes intended to ensure the bad swings remain in the locker and a new mind guru, 2013 is shaping up to be a big year for Donald.