ARDMORE, Pa. — Luke Donald enters the U.S. Open more focused on a different No. 1 than reclaiming his old ranking.
Like winning major No. 1.
Donald is 0-for-the majors as he heads into his 10th U.S. Open, starting Thursday at Merion Golf Club.
He’s had big wins over an 11-year pro career. He’d even been No. 1 for a total of 56 weeks until the run ended late last year. Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros are the only other players who had been No. 1 longer since the ranking began in 1986.
Some viewed Donald’s top spot without a major as a flaw in the system. That wasn’t his concern. Hoisting that U.S. Open trophy Sunday is his lone goal this week.
“It always crosses your mind when it’s going to happen,” he said. “You always go back to the successes you had. The fact I was able to get to No. 1, win seven times the last couple of years, you just keep going back to those things and try and focus that. You try and focus not on, if I can, but, when is it, going to happen. Just be comfortable that what I’m doing is the right thing.”
Ranked sixth, Donald said the pressure to win his first major hasn’t gone away just because No. 1 has slipped away.
“There’s always more attention, more requests of your time and that takes management, and that’s tough,” Donald said. “But within myself, the pressures are just the same. I want to win a major championship just as badly this year as when I was No. 1. It’s about managing those expectations, managing those feelings and knowing what you have is good enough.”
Donald played two practice rounds last week at Merion. He arrived for the tournament late Monday night and skipped the day of rain that soaked the course.
“It’s a real shame that we’ve had so much rain,” he said. “I think that most people would really like to see this course play firm and fast. And I don’t think we’re going to get that this week. But it’s a good challenge, this course. I think if it was firm and fast, this course, even despite the length, would hold up just as well as any other U.S. Open course.”
The 35-year-old Donald failed to make the cut at last year’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco because of putting failures. He has never finished better than 12th in an Open (2006) and missed the cut three times since his 2002 debut. He was 45th in 2011 and 47th in 2010.
“I think in U.S. Opens, usually success comes from hitting a lot of fairways and hitting a lot of greens. And I think my game is more from the hole backward,” he said. “I’ve always kind of worked that way. This year I’ve made a little bit more of a conscious effort to try and change that, to get a little bit more control, to work some things around, spending a little bit more time on the range working on really solidifying a few things. And it hasn’t happened yet, but statistics will show I’ve improved in those areas.”
Donald and Lee Westwood are the only players to be No. 1 without having won a major. Donald was No. 1 entering the 2011 U.S. Open and held it going into the 2012 PGA Championship. He lost the ranking after Rory McIlroy won last year’s PGA title.
Regarded as a mild-mannered Englishman, Donald is ready to show some ruthlessness at Merion as he chases that elusive win.
“It has a lot of tradition, this course, and I’m excited to see what it has to offer,” he said.