It may not seem fair at first to compare Colin Montgomerie to Luke Donald, as the younger Donald is hitting the prime of his career, but they already share some striking similarities.
At first, Montgomerie and Donald were completely different players.
Monty played with an arrogance that did not match his skill level in the big events, while Donald has all the talent in the world but not the self-confidence to finish when it matters.
Still, the lack of big trophies on their mantles is surprisingly similar.
Donald, unlike Montgomerie, has won here in the United States and has won a World Golf Classic event.
Golf is such a between-the-ears sport that it hurts Donald right now. If he can get it figured out how to actually win that first major, then he should begin to win with some regularity, if Rory McIlroy has a bad week or two.
The problem is that Donald has yet to do that. With the U.S. Open and Open Championships on courses that favored his finesse game over Rory’s power, Donald missed the cut at Olympic Club and started the final round at the Open Championship 10 shots behind Adam Scott with no realistic chance to win.
Luke was the No. 1 player in the world for a reason. 2011 saw him win the money title both here on the PGA Tour and on the European Tour. A remarkable accomplishment.
Yet Donald has not shown an ability to close or a killer instinct. Rory and Tiger Woods can sniff that championship on the practice green Saturday morning and close the deal.
You get the sense sometimes with Donald that that scent scares him and he does not adjust accordingly.
Montgomerie let a pair of U.S. Opens get away from him. For all of Monty’s domination in Europe, it never translated against the bigger and deeper fields here and in the majors. He just never could keep it together for four days to break through.
Unlike Monty’s superior attitude, Donald can come across like a delicate flower. Losing a U.S. Open in a playoff would just crush him, not make him stronger.
With all the added pressure of an Englishman winning the Open Championship, those weeks are not going to seem like a homecoming, but an excruciating visit to see the in-laws at Christmas. The fans will not be happy until he wins, and at some point, he will be too old to break through, and that never-ending cycle of pressure builds.
Like Monty, Donald has found the Ryder Cup very much to his liking, but that is a team event in which the pressure and the rewards are shared by a close-knit team.
With McIlroy now firmly in the driver’s seat as the best golfer on the planet and Tiger Woods showing some signs of life again, how does Donald adjust and cash in on all his talent?
Merion, 2013’s home of the U.S. Open, seems to be the last course in the near future that suits him. The ultimate finesse course—Donald’s accuracy is the perfect match.
If he goes through 2013 empty handed, when does his confidence really start to take a hit?
We all know he can win, but will he?
He is a better player than Montgomerie ever was, but he is on a path right now to be forgotten by the fans of tomorrow.