Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Tthe Masters: Focused Donald in with a shout

Luke Donald, the assassin. It's an image which is hard to accept, no matter how coolly the Englishman pulls the trigger on the fairways nowadays.

After all, the 33-year-old is a national stereotype; America's idea of exactly how an Englishman should be. Quiet, modest, dignified — placid, even. He is definitely not Ian Poulter. Indeed, imagining Donald tweeting the same declaration as his countryman yesterday, is to imagine Peter Bowles with a nose-stud.

“I'm looking for the Ryder Cup Poulter to come out this week and show his face,” wrote Poulter. “He never compromised. He wants it. Time to deliver.”

With four English representatives in the world's top 16 a broad cross-section of characters is inevitable. Donald prefers a less bullish approach, slipping on to this property calmly yesterday, not with any grand statements, but with a smile and a nod — but do not doubt his conviction.

Donald is here to win and many wise judges believe he has the most obvious chance of all the Europeans who are at the summit of world golf. His victory at the World Match Play in Tucson in February screamed of a competitor nearing the peak of his form.

Five weeks on, has he reached it? Well, last week he shot a 62 around The Bear's Club, a course record on the testing Chicago track, which had been prepared to ape Augusta's lightning greens.

A three-week break has evidently left him feeling fresh and focused. If his performance coach has anything to do with it, his concentration will hit new levels.

Dave Alred is better known as the long-time guru to Jonny Wilkinson. He strives to give his clients a “mindset for performance.” He does this by employing metaphors. It is here where Donald becomes Carlos the Jackal.

“With Luke I suppose an ‘assassin' is the simplest, most tangible metaphor,” says Alred. “Where you're ready, it's one shot, one opportunity and you need to hit right between the eyes because you don't get a second chance.

“It's about making sure all the technical work done with Pat Goss reproduces itself when he is under the cosh and he is becoming increasingly more successful in doing that.”

It surely isn't a coincidence that since the pair began working, 15 months ago, Donald has risen from world No 30 into the top five, but he will need to be at his best if he is to break the barren British run at Augusta, which now extends to 15 years.

“The way I see it is I can make birdies here and compete,” said Donald, who finished third on his Masters debut in 2005. “If you can putt and chip well, you're going to be there near the end.”

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