Luke Donald debuts in three-course PGA desert event

AFP| Updated: Jan 22, 2015, 09:23 AM IST
Luke Donald debuts in three-course PGA desert event

Britain`s Luke Donald, trying to regain the form that made him world number one in 2011 and 2012, plays this week`s PGA Humana Challenge as part of changes in strategy.

The 37-year-old Englishman skipped the Middle East to play last week in Hawaii and makes his debut in the three-course California desert event starting Thursday over the PGA West`s Nicklaus and Palmer courses and the La Quinta Country Club layout.

"I wanted to play a little more on the West Coast," Donald said. "The last few years I played a lot in the Middle East. With the new wrap around schedule, I feel like in previous years (next week`s Phoenix event) has been kind of my first event of the year and I feel like I`m getting left behind a little bit. Some guys have played eight and nine events and I`m playing my first or second event."

Donald, ranked 34th in the world and living across the United States in Florida, was 51st last week in his first Honolulu start in five years. He will play at Torrey Pines and Riviera next month but skip the Match-Play event starting in late April in San Francisco, saving energy for playing more later in the year in European Tour events to keep his rights there.

"That`s the one difficult thing about skipping the Middle East," he said. "Missing those out, it will just make my fall a lot busier."

Donald, who went winless in 2014, has reunited with former coach Pat Goss after a year working with Chuck Cook.

"In the end some of the things he was trying to get me to do physically I just don`t think I could really do very well," Donald said. "I could have kept persevering and maybe tried to do it, but certainly the last six months of last season were very frustrating in terms of my consistency and results.

"It was he had very hard to break down 25 years of golfing DNA, so the logical thing for me was to go back full-time with Pat."

Donald expects scores to go low this week as usual in the event.

"Perfect conditions, the par-5s are pretty reachable for all the field," Donald said. "The courses certainly aren`t easy but they give you a lot of opportunities. If someone`s playing well, they`re going to make a lot of birdies so you have to get up there with that mentality, going low and not being afraid to make some birdies."

Defending champion Patrick Reed, who opened with back-to-back 63s last year, won earlier this month at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii for his fourth US tour title. he is paired with fellow American Matt Kuchar, who was third last week.

Phil Mickelson, trying to bounce back from his first winless campaign since 2003, makes his first start of the season. The US left-hander, playing alongside last season`s US tour playoff champion Billy Horschel, seeks his third crown in the event after 2002 and 2004.