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In The Swing: Donald back on top of the world

Our man Neil Cullen was at Wentworth to watch the world No1 take the BMW PGA Championship over the weekend.

Donald retained No1 spot with his BMW PGA Championship win.
Donald retained No1 spot with his BMW PGA Championship win.
Image: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

LUKE DONALD REALLY is the King of Wentworth these days.

He successfully defended the BMW PGA Championship around the famous Surrey venue at the weekend, and in doing so took back the world number one spot from Rory McIlroy.

Donald now has two wins, and three top-seven finishes at Wentworth over the past six years. It’s an incredible record for any player really.

There was no sense that this was an easy win for Donald, though. He had to earn every shot and really worked hard to move himself ahead of the field over Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday in particular was a very tough day for the players on the course and Donald did extremely well to keep his head above water, his round of 69 was the lowest of the day and one of only nine rounds under par in the entire field.

I was in attendance at Wentworth on Saturday, and on the face of things it didn’t seem like that tough a day. Sure, it was pretty windy, but nothing I wouldn’t have expected top profesionals to have dealt with comfortably.

The real difficulty was on the greens, as expressed by Ernie Els in his expletive-filled rant about the  condition of the course, the details of which can were reported by TheScore over the weekend.

Players these days are used to being able to launch the ball high into the air and have it stop dead on landing. On Saturday, such was the firmness of the greens that players had to bounce the ball up to the greens and had to sacrifice a lot of control.

Then you have to factor in the wind. The hard greens on their own may have been somewhat manageable, the wind on its own definitely so, but when players are having to hit low shots under the wind into rock solid greens it makes it extremely difficult to get the ball on the green itself, never mind near the whole.

One of the groups I followed with great interest on Saturday was Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer – two recent Major champions. Schwartzel opened bogey, bogey, double bogey in his first three holes without playing a particularly bad shot.

His double bogey on the third was a prime example of the narrow margins that can make such a big difference to a score. Playing from the middle of the fairway, his second shot overshot the green by about a yard and such was the firmness of the groud that it bounced up a hill at the back of the green.

The downhill chip to a tight pin was treacherous, one of those shots that you were either going to leave in the long grass or hit miles past the hole. Charl did the former and then missed a couple of putts and ended up with six. That yard of extra length on the second shot was the difference between his six and a good birdie chance.

The conditions are the same for each and every player, though, and Donald managed those better than anyone. Add to that some big putts at crucial times on the final day and some all-round quality play and you’ve got a winning formula – a formula that Donald is finding on such a regular basis these days and will certainly be looking to bottle for the upcoming US Open.

What was a succesful week for Luke Donald was a terrible week for Rory McIlroy. He missed the half way cut by a long long way and in doing so displayed a side that we have not seen much of from McIlroy before – some angry club-tossing. He was clearly a frustrated man.

He defends his maiden Major, the US Open, in just three weeks and admitted to reporters at Wentworth that he has “lacked competitive rounds”. It does seem odd alright that he didn’t play for three weeks before the Masters and took another three weeks off after the Masters.

It’s difficult to gain any sort of competitive sharpness and a competitive mindset when your not actually playing competitive golf. And the proof of that is in two missed cuts in his last two events.

He  has the opportunity to put that right over the next few weeks in the build up to the US Open, but he is going to have to turn things around fast because Luke Donald is looking on top of his game at the moment and that is a dangerous formula.

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