Luke Donald still has to prove he's among the game's elite.
It’s an interesting pair, this pair of Brits, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.
They’ve both spent time as the No. 1 player in the world, both have yet to win a major and both have made a ton of money on the PGA and European Tours.
About $28,860,443 for Donald on the PGA Tour and over $19 million on the European Tour?
For Westwood? $13,644,407 on the PGA Tour and over $36 million on the European.
With Westwood soon to turn 40 and Donald about to turn 35, a couple things seem fairly evident about the No. 3 (Donald) and No. 4 (Westwood) players in the World Golf Rankings.
First, time seems to be running out on Westwood (who spent 22 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world).
Not that the Englishman won’t continue to win and make a ton more money. His issues have been in the majors, the yardstick by which professional golfers’ careers are measured. He’s a long driver, a player whose iron game is very good, but one who has never mastered the short game.
Westwood has worked very hard in that aspect, but still has not been able to muster a serious run at a major championship.
The best he’s been able to do is a pair of runner-up finishes, at the 2010 Masters and the 2010 Open Championship.
To paraphrase an old saying, it’s not going to get much better than this.
Second, Donald has just over five years in age over Westwood, but has a better all-around game and seems much more suited to be a major player than Westwood.
Note I said seems to be, because in 38 starts in the four major championship events, the best Donald’s been able to do is a pair of thirds.
The time has come for the guy who played at Northwestern to produce and start proving that those 56 weeks he spent as the No. 1 player in the world were legit.
Even though he’s one of the shortest players off the tee on the PGA Tour (averaging 280.1, ranking him 169th), Donald has built a reputation on being one of the straightest drivers on tour.
While it’s true he’s forced to hit longer clubs on his second shots, he’s been doing so for the fairways most times.
This wasn’t one of his better driving years, ranking 38th in accuracy, hitting 65.16 of his fairways. Being in the fairway helps a lot, regardless of the club he’s hitting.
But that’s just the beginning of the good things this man does on the golf course. Donald's scoring average for the year was 69.687, 10th best. Even better, his final-round scoring average was 69.07, second-best on tour.
His short game is among the very best on the PGA Tour and that’s where he really shines.
Donald is fifth in scrambling, converting 62.66 percent of the time. Plus, nobody is better scrambling from the rough.
He’s first in total putting (17.6) and third in strokes gained, putting at .797. Donald also sits at first in scrambling from less than 30 yards (41.86). In putting from five to 15 feet, he makes 53.49 percent, best on tour.
Donald also made an amazing 92.49 of his putts from three to five feet, seventh-best.
All these numbers point to the fact that Luke Donald should have won more than five tournaments on the PGA Tour.
But he hasn’t.
And the reason?
His lack of power for one, and it’s a considerable one.
He had a wrist injury a few years ago that still bothers him. That certainly doesn’t help as he and his fellow pros are presented with longer and longer golf courses.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle in Luke Donald's career has been his mental toughness.
It’s been whispered about for years, and if you take a hard look at some of the scores he’s posted on the bigger stages, you’ll see that there are always numbers that aren’t reflective of a guy trying to win a major.
During his reign as No. 1 in the world, Donald gave an indication that maybe it’s more than just hitting shots under pressure. When interviewed (via USOpen.com), Donald said:
“The focus for me is to continually try and improve and get better in all facets of my game and that has no relevance to where my world ranking is.
"The only other slight distraction, which is less so for me because I kind of go under the radar, is as a number one ranked player is that there's more, a little bit more attention, a little bit more expectation," he added.
A year ago, Donald became the first player to win money titles on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, something Rory McIlroy is attempting to do this year.
It’s a tribute to those impressive statistics that he’s in a position to accomplish this feat. It also says something about the mental toughness issue that he won just one time on the PGA Tour.