ARDMORE, Pa. — Luke Donald enters the U.S. Open focused on No. 1.
But it’s not his old ranking he wants – it’s his first major victory.
Donald has had big wins over an 11-year pro career. He was even ranked at No. 1 for 56 weeks until the run ended late last year. But he has never won a major.
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 … 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.”
Now ranked sixth, Donald said the pressure to win a major hasn’t gone away just because No. 1 has gone.
“There’s always more attention, more requests of your time and that takes management, and that’s tough,” he 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.”
The 35-year-old failed to make the cut at last year’s U.S. Open because of putting failures. He has never finished better than 12th in an Open (2006) and has 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.”
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.
“It has a lot of tradition, this course, and I’m excited to see what it has to offer,” he said.