DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Energised by his successful title defense of the European Tour’s PGA Championship on Sunday, Luke Donald believes he is close to recapturing the stellar form that swept him to four tournament wins worldwide last year.
It was exactly a year ago that Donald clinched the PGA Championship at Wentworth to become world number one for the first time and he went on to end a stunning 2011 campaign by claiming the money list crowns on both sides of the Atlantic.
“After a bit of a slow start to the year, it’s starting to pick up, starting to find the similar form that I found last year,” Donald told reporters at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Wednesday while preparing for this week’s Memorial tournament.
”Wentworth has obviously been a kind place to me and I played very well there since the (course) redesign. I‘m happy with the way my game is progressing.
“I feel like my game is in a good spot, and excited about this week. It’s a good field and a great tournament.”
Donald returned to the top of the world rankings for the fourth time in 12 months after strolling to a four-shot victory at Wentworth, becoming only the third player to win the trophy in back-to-back years.
“It was a big step for me to go into Sunday with the lead and play like I did on the back nine, hitting a lot of quality shots off the tee and into the greens and obviously holing a few putts, as well,” he said.
Asked what had given him the most pleasure about his victory on Sunday, Donald replied: ”Doing a few things I hadn’t done, going to an event and defending. I’ve never done that before.
“Obviously getting back to No. 1, although I’ve done that a couple times now,” he added with a smile as roars of good-natured laughter rippled through in the interview room.
”But I was just really proud of the way I handled myself on Sunday. I felt some nerves and it’s always tougher leading going into Sunday, or I think it is.
“Just to play that back nine in three under, play a lot of solid shots and not get really out of position, really be in control of my golf ball under the pressure ... I walked away really feeling good about that.”
Donald won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida in March and he would dearly love to add a sixth this week in the event hosted by golfing great Jack Nicklaus.
”I‘m always interested in winning, no matter where it is but this is a special place,“ the 35-year-old Englishman said of Muirfield Village. ”I think every golfer would want this on their resume of victories.
”It’s a special tournament with a great field, and you always want to go to tournaments that have strong fields. That’s a little bit how I set my schedule.
“You want to play against the best players and beat them. Obviously having Jack Nicklaus’s name associated with it makes it a little bit more special.”
Donald will launch his bid for a maiden victory at Muirfield Village in Thursday’s opening round when he tees off in a high-profile grouping with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley, winner of last year’s PGA Championship.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Dublin, Ohio; Editing by Frank Pingue