KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Missing the cut at the U.S. Open in June proved to be a valuable lesson for Luke Donald, the British world number one said on Tuesday as he continues his quest to end a title drought in the majors.
While Englishman Donald has yet to triumph in any of golf’s blue riband events, he has consciously eased off on self-imposed pressure and goes into this week’s PGA Championship invigorated by Ernie Els’ victory at last month’s British Open.
Sixteen days ago at Royal Lytham, South African Els won his fourth major crown at the age of 42 while Donald tied for fifth to record his seventh top-10 finish in a major championship.
”Certainly coming off the U.S. Open, I was very disappointed how I handled the situation mentally,“ Donald told reporters on a wet day at Kiawah Island. ”I didn’t come in hitting the ball that great, and maybe that added to some of the anxiety.
”But there was a little bit of a breakthrough for me, just realizing at the (British) Open championship, that no matter how I‘m hitting it physically, there’s always a way to mentally be on top; have that control of how I want to feel come Thursday; how I want to approach the tournament with the correct mindset.
“Certainly I did that very well at the Open championship, and as a result I also played pretty well.”
Donald, who became the first player to lead the money lists on both the European and U.S. PGA tours last year, says he feels “probably less a sense of urgency” to win a major title than he did heading into the Masters in April.
“Coming off such a great year last year, I maybe let that heighten my expectations a little bit,” he added, referring to the Masters at Augusta National where he tied for 32nd.
”Going into Augusta I was hitting the ball great and really didn’t come close to my expectations. It was an important lesson for me at the U.S. Open, the fact that I picked up I was getting so anxious and pressing too hard and wanting to be successful.
“After that week of failing and kind of realizing that a lot of the mindset I had going into that week was a part of the failure, that’s really helped me.”
Watching Els end a title drought of 10 years at the majors also helped the usually ultra-consistent Englishman.
“Just kind of stepping back and seeing people like Ernie win; knowing that I’ve got plenty of more majors in me,” Donald said. “If I keep preparing and playing and being as consistent as I have then one of these (majors) will open up for me.”
Asked whether there was any strategy he had not yet tried when it came to preparing for majors, Donald replied: ”I feel like I’ve tried everything. In the end it just comes down to being able to perform during that week.
”I’ve tried coming to tournament sites early, spending a lot of time, and I’ve gone the other way. The last two majors, Royal Lytham and this week, I haven’t played a practice round before the week.
“We’ll see how I do this week, but again, I think it’s more important for me to be able to control that mindset,” added Donald who won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida in March.
The 94th PGA Championship starts on Thursday.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Simon Evans