Luke Donald has chance to win first major and to be remembered

Luke Donald looks over his putt on the second green during the third round of the U.S. Open at the...

Luke Donald looks over his putt on the second green during the third round of the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., June 15, 2013. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)

JON McCARTHY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 PM ET

ARDMORE, PA. - U.S. Open winners at Merion Golf Club are never forgotten and that could be good news for golf’s often forgotten man.

Luke Donald was on top of the leaderboard for much of the third round Saturday before bogeying the 17th hole and doubling the 18th to finish the day at one-over par, two shots back of leader Phil Mickelson.

“I'll forget about those two holes and carry on tomorrow,” Donald said after his round.

Donald liked his chances at Merion before the week began, not that many people cared to listen.

“A course where I'm only hitting five drivers, a course where I'm hitting a lot of wedges in my hands, playing to my strengths, where I feel like from a hundred yards in I'm pretty good,” he said before the tournament started.

Even when Donald was the world No. 1 he was still in the shadow of the sport’s big three: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Donald has held the No. 1 spot for 56 weeks over the past two years. In fact, only Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros have been No. 1 for more weeks than Donald since the creation of the rankings in 1986.

He has 14 wins around the world, but despite his success Donald is viewed as an underachiever. Especially in his homeland where the media has in the past suggested that Donald is more interested in winning money than winning tournaments.

With just two top 10 finishes this year, it hasn’t been a great season for the Englishman and throughout his career the U.S. Open has been his worst major. In nine trips he has no top 10 finishes, three missed cuts and one withdrawal.

That could all end this week at Merion where the 35-year-old without a major has found a comfort zone on an uncomfortable course.

On the par-5 fourth hole, playing 604 yards Saturday, Donald left his driver in the bag and played an iron off the tee. In fact he played three irons on the hole before rolling in a 35-footer for birdie.

If Donald wins at Merion he will go from underachiever to sharing a spot in history with Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, a fact not lost on him.

“I think this course has tremendous history, obviously going back to Bobby Jones completing the Grand Slam back on the 11th hole in 1930,” Donald said.

Donald had the opportunity to speak to 1981 U.S. Open champ David Graham and asked him what the secret to winning at Merion is.

“He said keep it in the short stuff,” Donald said “Obviously I think most of us know that and it's about doing it.”

Donald is "doing it" better than most.

As for Hogan, he said it’s pretty cool to see the plaque marking the spot of the golf legend's iconic 1-iron shot in 1950.

Donald has a few connections to Hogan that he hoped were good omens heading into the Open.

“I was actually rummaging around some old equipment last week just for fun,” Donald said earlier this week. “I was down in my basement and actually happened to come across a Hogan 1-iron that I had.”

Donald played using Ben Hogan equipment his first two years on tour.

There would be no greater climax to this year’s U.S. Open than to have a player face a shot similar to Hogan’s iconic shot with the championship on the line. If it is Donald, he won’t be using a 1-iron but he might be using a 2-iron. That’s what he used on the final hole both Friday and Saturday.

Donald’s approach on the 18th Saturday missed the green, he then gouged a chip through the putting surface back into the rough, put his fourth shot on the green and two-putted for six.

After his round he explained his approach shot at the famous closing hole.

“I had to carry 229, I think, to get to just over that false front,” he said. “Again, that's a good 2-iron for me. And I just went at it too hard from the top and that's my kind of miss at the moment is just to the right.”

His lie in the rough was terrible but Donald admitted, “I didn't deserve much better.”

Not many players in the field still carry a 2-iron but Donald has used his frequently this week.

“I only have a 3-iron and a 2-iron, they're sort of fly-highs,” Donald said. “I don't have a hybrid in the bag this week.”

When golf fans think of Hogan, they remember his beautiful swing, his unflinching determination, and his nine majors. But, there was a time in Hogan’s career when he wondered whether he would ever have his breakthrough moment.

Sports fans might not know it but Hogan was 34 years old before he won his first major.

After his round, Donald reminded everyone that Mickelson is another guy that didn’t start winning majors until later in his career.

“He started winning Majors around 34 or 35,” Donald said. “So I think that I have some time on my side, luckily, in this game. Yeah, of course that's my goal. I want to win Majors.”

This may be his best chance.


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