The spotlight won’t be focused on Luke Donald nearly as much in the 2013 Masters Tournament, which is just fine with him.
Donald was the No. 1-
ranked player in the world during last year’s Masters.
He’s still not far from the top, checking in at No. 4 in the world behind Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose heading into Augusta this year.
“When you’re No. 1, you feel a little bit more exposed and you feel a little bit more attention is on you and you have a little bit more attention to perform,” Donald said.
The attention wasn’t because of his good play at Augusta National Golf Club last year. A year after tying for fourth place, he tied for 32nd, shooting 75-73-75-68.
“It wasn’t what I wanted,” said Donald, who is still searching for his first major victory. After the Masters last year, he missed the cut in the U.S. Open, tied for fifth in the British Open and tied for 32nd at the PGA Championship.
He entered the final round of the 2012 Masters tied for 52nd place and was off in the fifth group of the day. He trailed 54-hole leader Peter Hanson by 16 shots.
“It’s not a nice feeling waking up knowing whatever you shoot is probably not going to be good enough,” Donald said.
He at least finished strong – he moved up 20 spots after his final-round 68, which matched his career low at Augusta National.
“It’s good memories to try and think of, rather than some of the golf that was a little bit – it wasn’t tidy enough the first three days,” Donald said.
One thing Donald has learned in his 28 rounds over Augusta National is how small the margin of error can be on a shot. Take the par-3 sixth hole, for example.
“The green is so severe,” Donald said. “You can hit a great shot and just go over the green and have a tough chip, and suddenly you catch it a little bit too much and the chip goes back to the front of the green and you make a five after hitting what looked like a great shot in the air. There are some fine lines on some of these courses.”
Improvement in his short game could make Donald a factor this year at the Masters.
“I think the last few years I would say my short game has been the strongest part of my game,” he said. “Anything inside 100 yards. I’ve statistically been one of the best in the world at that, and I think that’s been a huge part of my success. Obviously, when I can put my long game together with that short game, that’s when I become dangerous.”
Donald has 12 career victories worldwide (seven on the European Tour and five on the PGA Tour). He wants to build on that number, but not necessarily get back to No. 1 in the world.
“I’ve already proved to myself that I’ve been good enough to be No. 1, and it’s something I don’t think about so much now,” Donald said. “Obviously, when I had that chance last year to get to No. 1, it was sort of in the forefront of my mind.
‘‘But now, I’m really concentrating on trying to win tournaments, trying to win majors, and the world rankings kind of take care of itself. It’s just a by‑product of playing good. It’s less of a thought right now.”
Donald also plans to change his approach to major championships.
“I think it goes back to thinking that I need to do more than I actually realize I do,” he said, when asked what he needs to do to win a major. “I’ve been able to win tournaments without playing my best golf, and I think majors is a similar deal. I think a lot of people put too much pressure on yourself, and you +go out there and you press a little bit too hard, and suddenly you’re a few shots back and trying to play catch‑up. Obviously, knowing that just playing my game is good enough is a good thought to have for me.”