Hopes high for Donald after Scottish Open win
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."
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.