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US PGA: Donald ready for major challenge

By Mark Garrod

If it was all about money Luke Donald would have no more questions to answer.

Finishing joint runner-up in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational added another £405,851 to the world number one's earnings this season.

That took him almost £1.5m ahead of Masters champion Charl Schwartzel at the head of the European Tour “Race to Dubai” with over £3.1m — already more than Lee Westwood's winning total two years ago.

He is now also top of the PGA Tour money list as well, with almost 4.3m US dollars — albeit by less than 29,000 US dollars from Nick Watney.

But it is not all about money.

Donald, just like world number two Westwood, has still not won a major and the last chance this year comes in the USPGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club this week.

A month ago Donald cantered to victory in the Scottish Open on the eve of The Open Championship, his closing 63 being the lowest round of his European Tour career. Five days later he had missed the halfway cut at Sandwich.

As he says, all he can do is keep trying and keep putting the work in with his coach Pat Goss and his mental “guru” Dave Alred, the man who has helped Jonny Wilkinson so much in his career.

After finishing four strokes behind Australian Adam Scott at Firestone, Donald — who had only three bogeys in the 72 holes — said: “It was a good week — a lot of positives.

“Obviously it's disappointing that three out of four days I really felt like I gave a lot away on the greens, but it's probably one of the best ball-striking weeks I've had for a while.

“I felt really comfortable off the tee and my iron play was good. I gave myself a lot of opportunities and around a course that's quite tight and demanding in places it was very encouraging.

“I'm not going to worry too much about the putter. I've always felt like I'm a good putter and those things will come around.

“I've just got to keep being patient and keep giving myself opportunities.”

Donald now has three runners-up finishes to go with his three wins in 2011 — and an amazing 18 top 10s in his last 23 starts.

Atlanta could well put more of a premium on long-hitting, though, and that gives Westwood the belief that this could be his week to break through in the majors. If so, it would complete the so-called “Chubby Slam” — his manager Andrew “Chubby” Chandler having seen Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke win the first three of the season.

Westwood also missed the cut at Sandwich, despite leading the “greens in regulation” statistics on the first two days, while a joint best-of-the-day closing 65 in Akron lifted him to ninth place.

“I haven't hit many bad shots and really started to get the hang of the greens,” Westwood said of his final round in Akron.

As for the much sterner test expected this week, he added: “That's good. The way I'm hitting the ball, the harder the better.”

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