HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Three things that are instantly recognizable around Harbour Town Golf Links:
- The red and white striped lighthouse behind the 18th green;
- The Calibogue Sound framing the left side of the finishing hole;
- And, Luke Donald’s name on the leader board.
Donald has three runner-up finishes and a pair of third-place finishes in the RBC Heritage but he’s never won here. Could this be the year?
A five-under par 66 gave Donald a share of the first-round lead with Branden Grace on a chilly, breezy day when scoring was a challenge. It also helped soothe the sting from missing the Masters last week, the first major in 11 years that did not include Donald.
“I think just in general it’s been a tough couple of years for me. I haven’t been playing as well as I would like. I certainly feel like my game isn’t very far away, but the results certainly haven’t matched what I think I’m capable of,” Donald said.
“I feel like I’ve got a few good years ahead of me. I don’t want to be sitting at home watching the majors on TV yet. That’s the first one I missed in 11 years. I worked very hard on my game this whole year, but especially last week, and it’s nice to see it come through today.”
Donald was No. 1 in the world at the end of 2011, No. 2 at the end of 2012 and 17th after the 2013 season. That’s very different from being ranked 95th which is where he finds himself this week.
Frustrated by his inability to win a major championship, Donald went searching for distance and hooked up with swing coach Chuck Cook for a time. Donald didn’t find the distance nor the accuracy he was after and, having since parted with Cook, he’s still chasing the sharpness that marked his short game and putting in his prime.
“I felt to win major, my short game, inside a hundred yards was good enough. Putting was obviously good enough. I didn’t feel like I hit it in the fairway enough with how long I hit it. That was impetus to change, and it didn’t work,” Donald said.
“I didn’t really hit further, and I didn’t hit it straighter. So I wasn’t able to change my golfing DNA in the time I was working with Chuck Cook, as he wanted me to. So I went back (to Pat Goss) and obviously throughout that period lost a bit of confidence and I’m still working to get that back.”