By Tony Jimenez
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) – Florida-based Briton Luke Donald still managed a smile and a wisecrack on Sunday despite having endured a nightmare return to the European Tour at this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
The former world number one found it tough to locate the fairways off the tee as his driver let him down badly on the tree-lined par-72 Wentworth course just outside London.
“That got me in trouble a few times and from there I’m sort of playing defense,” Donald told Reuters in an interview after closing with a 76 and a 12-over-par tally of 300.
The 39-year-old Englishman followed his opening 75 at the tour’s flagship event with an encouraging second round 68 but a deeply disappointing 81 on Saturday, which included an eight at the par-five 12th, sent him tumbling down the field.
“There were a lot of positives in the second round but I really struggled in the third round,” said Donald, back on his home circuit for the first time since he hosted the British Masters at Woburn in October.
“But we always get great support here and the fans got their money’s worth because they got to see a lot of my shots,” he joked.
“You try and draw the positives and move on to the next week but obviously I’d have liked to have played a bit better, especially yesterday.”
It is not long ago that Donald was looked upon as the man to beat at Wentworth after he followed a tie for second place in 2010 by lifting the prestigious trophy in 2011 and 2012.
However, the former Ryder Cup stalwart’s form has nosedived in recent years and he has slid to 77th in the world rankings having last occupied top spot in August 2012.
Donald has missed the cut in his last three tournaments in the United States since finishing second at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina six weeks ago.
“The Heritage wasn’t too long ago so the game isn’t very far away and I’ll try and grind all the positives I can from each week,” he said.
“You have to just try and find the positives in everything. You find some little things and try and build on that…keep grinding, keep persevering and wait until things click.”
Donald’s next task is to attempt to force his way into the field for the second major championship of the season in Wisconsin from June 15-18.
“I want to qualify for the US Open, get in the majors and get back in the top 50 of the world,” he said. “I need to compete and contend and try and get back in the winners’ circle.
“I’m getting on a bit golfing-wise but I’ve got a lot of desire. I still think I’ve got some good years left in me,” added Donald who is recognized as one of the best modern-day players never to have won a major.
He said he took plenty of encouragement from 37-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia’s breakthrough major victory at last month’s U.S. Masters.
“It was inspiring,” explained Donald. “He’s a good friend of mine and it was great to see him win.
“I kind of felt like if he can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it too.”
(Editing by Clare Lovell)