(Reuters) - World number three Luke Donald, desperate to shrug off the unwanted tag of ‘one of the best golfers never to win a major’, has turned to NBA great Michael Jordan in a bid to improve his mental approach.
Briton Donald dominated golf in 2011, becoming the first player to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic and spending the bulk of the year at the top of the world rankings.
He starts his season at the Northern Trust Open in California this week and has been explaining his work with Jordan who won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls between 1991-98.
“He’s good for the mind. He’s been making sure I‘m ready mentally,” the Englishman told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“It’s been good to pick Michael’s brains and find out what he was thinking about when he was playing basketball. He’s always trying to play mind games, he doesn’t like to lose.”
Jordan, who averaged 30.1 points per game during a phenomenal basketball career, is also an accomplished golfer with a handicap of four.
Donald hopes fellow Chicago resident Jordan can unlock the key to playing his best at the year’s four majors, starting with the U.S. Masters in April.
“Although I was content with how I played last year - I won three times on three different continents - I was once again disappointed with how I performed in the majors,” said the 35-year-old.
”I played solidly enough at the (British) Open,“ said Donald, referring to his tie for fifth place. ”But the other three were nothing to write home about. I’ve got to figure out a way to be competitive at the majors - that’s the main aim this year.
“The plan before the majors this year is to go to each course early and have a few days to get familiar with it. I’ve not played Merion (U.S. Open course) and haven’t played Muirfield (British Open) for years.”
The Masters takes place from April 11-14, the U.S. Open in Pennsylvania is from June 13-16, the British Open in Scotland is from July 18-21 and the U.S. PGA Championship in Rochester, New York will be contested from August 8-11.
Donald said he felt refreshed and recharged having not competed since the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November.
”It is exactly what I did in 2011 and it seemed to work,“ he added. ”Professional golf pretty much has a 12-month season nowadays and I find that if you just take a few weeks off you can’t have a proper rest or a long enough period to work on your game.
“It is a little difficult watching the other pros playing competitively and, in the case of Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson), winning. But I’ve used it as extra incentive to work harder on my improvements.”
Donald said he felt his days as number one were not over despite Rory McIlroy’s excellent form in 2012 when he emulated his Ryder Cup team-mate and won both the PGA Tour and European Tour orders of merit.
“I still believe I can get back up there and have the chance to be number one again,” said Donald.
”If I have a year like 2011 it is possible. The rankings are tough because you basically have to at least match what you did in the season previously not to fall back.
“Last year was solid for me but I lost so many points because I had such a great year in 2011. It’s very hard to keep up - Rory’s going to see that this year.”
Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, editing by Tony Jimenez