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Hopes high for Donald after Scottish Open win

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Iain Carter | 19:52 UK time, Sunday, 10 July 2011

For much of the week in the Highlands all the talk was of how the new Castle Stuart course that staged the Scottish Open would provide the perfect preparation for players heading to the Open Championship.

The theory was well founded - a links test to provide a decent workout for the shots that will be needed on the Kent coast in the third major of the year.

But, as the thunder rumbled and the rain battered the Moray Firth, we started to wonder.
Suddenly the week became rather more stressful. Players were setting alarms for 0430 BST and the tournament was down to 54 holes. It had become a marathon and a sprint all rolled into one.

Yet by the end, amid scenery still glorious despite grey skies, we could conclude that the Scottish Open had provided the opportunity to be an excellent tune-up for what lies ahead at Royal St George's.

This assessment is largely down to Luke Donald, who must now harbour great hopes of becoming a first-time major champion at the Open.

The world number one produced brilliant, stress-free golf to cruise to the third title of what has become a stellar season.

"I felt in control out there and that's a good sign for next week," Donald said after his four-shot victory. "It was the best way to prepare."

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The Briton, who strengthened his position at the top of the rankings with this win, putted beautifully and was constantly pushing himself down the closing stretch of holes. He set himself the target of three birdies from the last five holes and duly obliged.

Another mission accomplished. This is the Donald way - setting goals and ticking them off in a little black book he carries with him.

At the Masters he noted his desire to win the Par Three tournament on the eve of the main event and was able to write words to the effect of "one down, one to go" after succeeding in that aim.

It didn't lead to a first green jacket but his share of fourth place at Augusta was his best major finish since the 2006 USPGA.

The fact is the 33-year-old's record in the biggest tournaments does not tessellate with his undoubted talents. Now is the time for Donald to correct this glaring anomaly.

A lowly finish in the US Open - tied 45th - perhaps doesn't bode well, but Donald says he has learned a lot from what went wrong at Congressional. He says fatigue was his undoing after the success he enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the tournament.

Donald's Scottish triumph followed a two-week break, including a holiday in Italy. Celebrating this success will be on hold until he has played at Sandwich and then the Canadian Open the following week.

"I feel pretty good about my energy levels and I'm not concerned that this took too much out of me," Donald said. "The challenge is to have your game for the week of a major."

As he bids to become the first Scottish Open champion to go on to win the Open, Donald plans practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday at Royal St George's.

He will work on his short game before then to acquire the speed of what are sure to be much firmer greens on the south coast of England.

Castle Stuart demonstrated some of the traditional demands of links golf but the weather diminished the value somewhat as players were able to attack soft putting surfaces.

Donald departs with confidence coursing his veins and other Open contenders will also have felt the value of a week in Scotland.

Padraig Harrington said beforehand that a week in or near the top 10 would be ideal preparation and he and Lee Westwood finished in a share of 14th, albeit seven shots behind the winner.

Westwood, like Donald, had the wrong end of the draw and so had to endure the miserable Saturday wondering whether he would be able to complete his second round.

His frustration was evident but that should have evaporated by the time he arrives in Kent.

Donald knows a little more of the Open spotlight will shine on him as a result of this victory, but is equally aware that it will still be primarily trained on US Open winner Rory McIlroy.

That doesn't seem to bother the new Scottish Open champion either, he likes to go about his business in a quiet, understated manner.

The Englishman's challenge is to emerge from the shadow cast by McIlroy after his sensational win in Washington. The man from Northern Ireland has not competed since, while Donald has made the most of his one playing opportunity.

Both players appear to have taken the right steps in readying themselves for the game's oldest major. If both are proven correct there is every chance of them both contesting an epic Open Championship.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    With some 20 or so players in contention on the last day and given the perfect scoring conditions, I was very surprised more players did not put in better scores. Donald strolled round all afternoon and no one put him under any real pressure.At the beginning all the experts were talking of play offs but after 6/8 holes it was clear Donald was going to have it easy and the whole tournament fizzled out as a contest.

  • Comment number 2.

    VERY excited about next week. Open week is always one I highlight in my diary early doors and make sure I'm in the country and as close to a TV as possible... thus my friends know not to expect to see me from the moment I escape the office on Friday. Glory days!

  • Comment number 3.

    Luke is playing amazing golf at the moment and the time is right for him to win a major. I would have him tied favourite with Rory. I would love to see Luke win a major but I think he doesnt have the big day game...as his record shows...played 50 majors and only 4 top 10 finishes. So Im afraid to say I put Luke down for a top 10 but to fade away once the pressure is on at the weekend.

  • Comment number 4.

    I was there yesterday (and Saturday for that matter), and the feeling around me was as soon as Luke had reached the top of the leaderboard, was, somebody would have to do something very special to beat him because he didn't look like making any mistakes.

    Can I also add what a beautiful course, which I suspect would have been far more demanding if the wind had blown, and organisation was superb. I used the park and ride facility, which was faultless. I look forward to returnng next year!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Can Luke be the first English major winner in 15 years and only the 2nd English major winner in 40 years?

    The Open deserves an English winner....its been far far too long.
    Westwood is the new monty so he's out...and Donald is playing surpurb so lets hope he can handle the pressure for the first time.

  • Comment number 6.

    He has to be one of the favourites for the Open, but under pressure, when he has to, can he get the job done in a big one? Thats the same question that has been asked of plenty of Europeans over the years, and unfortunately plenty of them have not taken chances, when they have had them - Montgomerie, Westwood, Casey, Donald, Clarke, Parnevik, Bjorn, Donald, Poulter, Garcia.

    McIlroy had a few chances as well to win before he did.

    I've backed Kuchar to win the open and still think he has a good chance and excellent putter - but there could be 20/30 possible winners.

    From what i saw, the course looked excellent, but it seemed short, there seemed to be quite a few 360 yard par 4's, so unless its windy, they'll be food and drink to most pros.

    Well done Luke on another magnificient victory.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was very impressed with Luke Donald's performance and his comments before & after play on Sunday. He didn't complain about the delay's and disruption, he went out of his way to praise the efforts of everyone involved in getting the course ready for play on Sunday and was extremely gracious. This was in contrast to Lee Westwood who was bleating about the weather hampering his preparations for the Open. Not only was that disrepectful to the sponsors and organisers of the Scottish open in which he was competing, there is nothing anyone can do if 3.5 inches of rain falls in 3 hours.
    Top marks for the world number one, in contrast Lee Westwood as post no. 5 says is becoming the new Monty!

  • Comment number 8.

    Westwood is like the Monty of the 90's...he always looks moody and like he isn't enjoying his golf and in interviews it always sounds like he is defensive to every question he is asked and like he wants to end the interview asap.

    Donald is a class act! Hope he does it this week.

  • Comment number 9.

    How nice it would be to see Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kymer in the last 2 groups on Sunday exchanging birdies for the title, top 4 in the world all European it should be a truly vintage year on one of the toughest Open courses, can't wait!!

  • Comment number 10.

    This is the year that a European is going to win the Open. Place your bets on Lee Westwood as he will be holding up the Claret Jug on Sunday. Place Each way bets on Gregory Havret, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Matin Kaymer

    Wade in Wade in!

  • Comment number 11.

    Bit harsh to write Westwood off as the next Monty, as well as naive I would have thought. Got to imagine the interviews have to seem tedious following every round of golf he ever plays and someone with his experience and talent still has a major in him surely. I'll shout for him, Donald and McIlroy and hope it's a vintage year.

  • Comment number 12.

    Henrik Stenson as a bet for the Open??
    Ranked 124th in the world and not done anything for quite a while.
    Do you know something we don't comment 10?

  • Comment number 13.

    I'd love Donald to carry this form through the week and win but I have a feeling an American is going to rain on our parade and my money's on Matt Kuchar.

  • Comment number 14.

    12.At 18:36 11th Jul 2011, deldiablo999 wrote:

    Henrik Stenson as a bet for the Open??
    Ranked 124th in the world and not done anything for quite a while.
    Do you know something we don't comment 10?

    ------------

    What's wrong with that?

    1. T3 The Open 2010
    2. T23 US Open 2011
    3. T9 BMW International Open (23rd June 2011)

    1. shows he can play on the Links and plays well in wind (something McIlroy proved he may struggle with)
    2. was the emergence of some form after, as you say, a pretty lean patch
    3. was the consolidation of that form - he was (I think) tied for the lead before the final round.

    I think Stenson is a great EW bet. Sure, he won't win, but he is long enough and a solid enough putter to do well round St Georges. He also hits his 3 wood miles, so if it's a little tight he can keep it straight without giving up much distance. He is also probably about 80/1.

    I'd fancy Garcia EW too if his odds weren't stupidly short. I've been waiting for Ishikawa to do something special too but I'm not sure The Open is the place for him to do it. After this week I'd fancy Stricker to finish top 5 too, especially if the greens dry out.

    God knows who will win, but if the wind blows and the greens get slick it won't be McIlroy.

    Fowler to lead through 18


  • Comment number 15.

    #14 Not sure you can say definitively McIlroy can't play in the wind. Lots of good players (and Open winners) have come a cropper in the wind in the Open. Here's hoping the wind blows and Mcilroy wins (or Westwood or Donald).

  • Comment number 16.

    Totally agree with jockneyboy. I was there on Saturday during all the delays and when the rain came again at 5 o'clock, Donald was the only one who stayed out on the range where there was still a sizeable crowd and then signed autographs afterwards - class act from the deserved world Number 1. Westwood has went down in my estimation for his general demeanour and negative comments about the course.

 

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