Current world No2 Luke Donald visited the media centre at TPC Sawgrass this morning to discuss, among less interesting topics (“I was wondering if you could just talk about the par-3s on the back nine…”), his most recent world rankings demotion, course strategy and the sad neglect of Europe’s flagship event, the PGA Championship.
The Englishman enters this week’s event, of course, having ceded his position at the summit of the world rankings to Rory McIlroy. The 23-year-old finished second to Rickie Fowler at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship to supplant Donald for the third time in as many months.
It’s a rivalry Donald believes can only strengthen the professional game.
“You know, I have no issues. I kind of enjoy the going back and forth. I think the fans enjoy it.
“I think it probably has not been as exciting because [of late because] Rory and I really haven’t been playing in the same events. I think that will change a little bit and hopefully there will be some situations coming up in the next few months where we’ll be playing in the same tournament and both having a chance to win.”
Just don’t ask him to explain the mathematical formulae at work.
“I understand the premise of the World Rankings [who doesn’t?]. You know, I think with any system, there’s always going to be some flaws. I don’t think there is a perfect system…
“But I’m no mathematician [true]. I don’t know how to work these things out. And just remember, there’s only really been some questions about the World Ranking in the last couple of years because of the parity that we are seeing. Obviously no one really questioned it when Tiger was so far ahead for many years.
“I don’t think the system is very far away. Maybe a little bit of tweaking here and there, but it’s pretty close, I think.
While McIlroy returns to Sawgrass this week under the shadow of 2011’s scheduling fiasco, during which his distaste for Pete Dye’s idiosyncratic layout was made abundantly clear, Donald arrives at Ponte Vedra Beach quietly confident of capturing his second title of the year.
Where his Ryder Cup colleague sees only awkwardness, the Hertfordshire native sees well-wrought complexity.
“Well, I think short game is important around here… [The greens] are small; they are undulating. But if you do miss them, it helps to be able to be pretty good around the greens…
“When I feel like I’m on with my short game, that’s a big tick in my box…
“I don’t think [Sawgrass] favors any one style of golf. It doesn’t really favor the bomber. It’s a course that if you’re playing well, you’re going to do well… there’s no real advantage to the guy who hits it 330. There’s just an advantage to the guy that plays well, and that’s what to me makes it a good golf course.”
Asked whether he considered the Players Championship a more significant event than the European Tour’s PGA Championship, a tournament he won last year, Donald answered in the affirmative, albeit reluctantly.
“I would probably have to put it above [the PGA Championship and Accenture], just because of the group of people that are playing here this week.
“That’s why I think it’s probably talked about as the fifth major, because of the strength of field. It doesn’t have quite the feel of a major, but because of the strength of field, it’s just a small step down.
“Obviously, Wentworth is a great tournament. I wish it attracted more American players to go over there… [later] Well, I can why there are reasons not to play in it… but I’ve always been a proponent of trying to get the most out of your game… I think at least go try it once. If you don’t like it, fair enough.”
Donald, the winner of this year’s Transitions Championship, is scheduled to tee off at 1.39pm tomorrow afternoon in the company of compatriot Lee Westwood and Bill Haas.