British Open 2012: Luke Donald Needs to Earn His Top World Ranking

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2012

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 17:  Luke Donald of England speaks with the media after his second practice round prior to the start of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes on July 17, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

We know that the one title no one wants in golf is "the best player to have never won a major."

Lee Westwood has dealt with several agonizingly close calls and played more consistently in the past few years than anyone.

Adam Scott flirted with a major breakthrough in the 2011 Masters.

However, the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world continues to be on the outside looking in. In fact, despite six top-10 finishes in majors, Donald has been unable to be in the hunt down the stretch.

This week at Royal Lytham and Saint Anne's, Donald comes to the Open Championship with weighty expectations on himself.

At age 34, Donald appears to be in the peak of his career. While Tiger Woods appears on the verge of returning to championship form, he is still not the threat he once was.

Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy have both struggled in the elements of the Open Championship in years past and cannot be excited for all the wet and windy weather coming their way.

Indeed, the moment appears to be now for Donald.

With a victory earlier in the season at Transitions Championship, Donald knows that people expect more out of him. He and Westwood are the only two players in the history of the world golf rankings to achieve the No. 1 ranking despite never winning a major.

In fact, despite nearly dropping off the face of the Earth, if Woods were to win this weekend and Donald finishes outside of the top three then the man chasing Jack Nicklaus will once again claim the top spot.

The European star has faced the harsh scrutiny of the British media before. The masses have been appeased by the success of McIlroy and last year's sentimental favorite Darren Clarke.

Now is not the time for nostalgia, it is time for vindication.

Donald has some statistics that players would die for at an Open Championship. He is first on tour in total putting and scrambling, two keys for any major champion.

Also, with the most bunkered golf course on the British Open circuit, Donald is 10th on tour in sand saves and first in greens in regulation from fairway bunkers.

While Donald is not the longest driver of the ball, on a links course that number does not matter nearly as much as accuracy.

Indeed, if Donald played this week like he has all the other weeks, he has to be a contender. However, everyone knows that a major simply has a different feel and atmosphere.

Winning a major takes toughness, particularly in the difficult conditions expected all week long. The player with the most mental fortitude will most likely walk away with the Claret Jug this weekend.

The Brit has shown that strength before, being an instrumental part of Ryder Cup teams and winning WGC events against elite international fields.

Donald has spent most of his life dreaming of winning a major and this week sets the stage for a breakthrough moment.

The only concern Donald must guard against is adjusting to European greens once more.

Having played the PGA Tour more and more over the years, he undoubtedly will fall into the habit of expecting more speed in his putts than there actually will be. That will only be exacerbated with all this rain.

His touch will be tested this week, but his nerves will be tested more.

After 34 attempts, Donald knows what it takes to win a major.

Is it his time?