PGA Tour

Column: Donald due for ultimate success at Harbour Town

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 12, 2012 

Luke Donald watches his shot from the fairway on No. 18 during Wednesday's RBC Heritage pro-am at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

SARAH WELLIVER -- THE ISLAND PACKET

You used to feel this way about Tiger Woods.

The top-ranked golfer in the world comes to town to play an event in which he has a good track record and leaves with a win under his belt.

Like him or not, you expect that from the best in the world.

And after spending 623 weeks at No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking and winning nearly 100 tournaments as a professional, Tiger delivered on that expectation more than a few times.

Now that golfer is Luke Donald.

Donald comes into the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing ranked No. 1 and a record streak of 11 straight under-par rounds at Harbour Town.

The only thing missing is the victory, and this tournament is the prime location.

By now, everybody knows the story of last year's Heritage.

Donald, needing a win to move to No. 1 in the world, led after the second and third rounds at Harbour Town. But a marvelous final-round 64 by Brandt Snedeker forced a playoff.

After three holes, Snedeker had won, and Donald's hopes for a win -- and No. 1 -- would have to wait.

"I remember being pretty nervous come Sunday, you know, because I knew what was on the line," Donald said. "Obviously, if I won, I was going to go to No. 1. And it didn't quite work out, Brandt played a great round and beat me in the playoff."

Though the No. 1 ranking is important to him, Donald insists it's really the wins that are the goal. You couldn't help but sense a hint of irritation Wednesday when reporters' questions focused on regaining the top spot from Rory McIlroy instead of his win at the Transitions Championship in March at Innisbrook that put him back on top.

"Yeah, the win meant a lot to me," Donald said. "Getting back to No.1 was just a result of that. I think, obviously, when Rory went to No. 1, I think a lot of people thought that was going to be it for a while. But obviously, I feel like I've got a lot of good golf in me. And I feel like I'm just getting into the peak of my career."

While he's at his peak, Donald admits that only in the past couple of years has he "really started to figure out how to win on the U.S. tour and in Europe."

During that span, Donald has three wins and four more top-three finishes in just 24 PGA Tour events played.

If Donald really has figured out how to win, then there is no better setting than this week's RBC Heritage for his next one. His playoff loss to Snedeker last year followed a third-place finish in 2010 and another second-place finish, albeit by 10 strokes, in 2009 on the course he described last year as "tight and fiddly."

If 11 straight rounds better than par and a run of 2nd-3rd-2nd doesn't spell knocking on the door, nothing does.

And this year, there's no quest for No. 1 to muddy the water.

"Now that I've been No. 1 for a number of weeks now, it's not something I think about too much. Obviously, my focus this week is just trying to win the tournament."

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