Donald intends to make amends and become No 1 in winning style
Luke Donald could miss the cut at the West Course and still replace Lee Westwood as the new world No 1. That is just one of the permutations in the rankings race which gives this BMW PGA Championship added lustre.
In truth, it shouldn't need it. The European Tour call this their "flagship event" and undoubtedly the field that tees off in today's first round could justify heading any golfing fleet. Five members of the world's top six, the four reigning major winners... all it's missing is a few Americans. As well as a few more dollops of hype.
This was the point made by Simon Khan, the defending champion, yesterday. "Maybe it's the British mentality, but really we should be shouting from the rooftops," said the Englishman. "I mean, when is it ever going to happen again? Lee and Luke are the world's top two. And we've got the four major winners and we've got five other members of the world's top 10. Can you imagine if this was a tennis event in England and England had the top two players in the world? We should be telling everyone about it. It's unbelievable."
It would certainly have stretched logic this time last year. Westwood, at No 3, was the only European in the world's top five, while Graeme McDowell did not even know whether he had qualified for the US Open he was to win three weeks later. Martin Kaymer was also majorless and floating outside the top 10; so, too, was Donald. Without a victory of any description in more than four years, the questions were still swirling around Donald's very level head.
They still are, but their tone is now "when" and not "if". Certainly the sense is of an imminent change at the top of the order, particularly as Donald finished runner-up last year and Westwood has missed seven of his last 10 Wentworth cuts. The mathematics are complex, but as long as Kaymer fails to finish in the top two and make his own leap from No 3, all Donald requires is to fare better than Westwood. He could come 32nd, if Westwood is 33rd and be hailed the new king. Indeed, thanks to the vagaries of the system, Westwood, Donald and Kaymer could bale out tomorrow and Donald would assume the summit. Not that he would celebrate such a surreal scenario.
Donald is on a staggering run of consistency and confessed last week on his way to a second-placed finish at the Volvo World Match Play that he expects to contend whenever and wherever he tees it up. Thirteen top 10s in your last 14 tournaments does that sort of thing to your confidence. "I think I'm the most consistent right now," said the 33-year-old yesterday, when asked who he considers to be the best player in the world. "I think I've proven it over the last three months." "So you consider yourself to be the best then, Luke?" came back the journalist. "Yes, I guess so," replied Donald.
Yet is it possible to be the best player in the world and have won only one strokeplay event (last year in Madrid) in the last five years? The critics – most of them American, it must be guessed – will be lining up to hit him with that one if he usurps Westwood with anything other than a "W" here. They should be advised that Donald, himself, recognises this fault line in his form.
"There's a big sense of irritation," said Donald, who won the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in February. "Take last week. That was very disappointing. I had that tournament – again. I felt like I should have won it and didn't. You know, it's all very well saying there's always next week and try to win again. But it still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth to finish second. I'd rather have lost in the first round than finishing second, in a way. It's tough to take."
First-round tee times
Selected groups (Great Britain & Ireland unless stated):
8am S Khan, L Donald, G McDowell.
8.15am L Westwood, A Quiros (Sp), R Goosen (SA).
8.25am D Clarke, R McIlroy, M Manassero (It).
8.35am C Montgomerie, Y E Yang (S Kor), J M Singh (Ind).
12.20pm J Daly (US), R Green (Aus), T Jaidee (Thai).
12.30pm J Rose, C Schwartzel (SA), M Kaymer (Ger).
12.40pm M A Jimenez (Sp), E Els (SA), L Oosthuizen (SA).
12.50pm F Molinari (It), P Casey, I Poulter.
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