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The (Luke) Donald's No-Three Putt Streak

I've been enjoying Paul Mahoney's reports from the Dunhill at St. Andrews (here's the Friday report on John Daly's 67, setting himself up for a spectacular implosion).

But I just couldn't let his Thursday report go without noting the incredible streak Luke Donald had going until he met up with the 10th 7th green at Kingsbarns.

He teed off at the 10th with 434 consecutive holes without a single three-putt, the longest running streak in the game.

In an age when it feels like half the players on tour are converting to the belly putter in a desperate attempt to coax the ball into the hole, Donald's short flatstick has been rattling them in for seven tournaments over eight weeks, stretching back to the Canadian Open, the week after the British Open at Royal St George's. A remarkable statistic in a sport obsessed with them.

Donald extended his magical touch on the greens all the way through his front nine and got to the seventh (his 16th) before disaster struck. Well OK, it wasn't THAT tragic, but his run of holes without a three-putt came to an end at 449. After lagging up from 70 feet, Donald was left with an eight-footer for par -- and missed.

"I was a little upset, yeah," Donald said with a wry smile after signing for a three-under-par 69. It's the little victories in golf, isn't, that we look for. I didn't want to miss. But 69 is not a bad score to start the week."

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Reader Comments (26)

Amazing, isn't it? I can't imagine a run like that. One of the things I think this means is that anyone contemplating a professional career as a player should look at that and understand how good the elite are. It's another world. And not just tee to green. It's around the green these guys really excel. Witness Haas' shot in the FedEx playoff. But it's always been a putting contest. Runyon beating Snead as an example. Fleck beating Hogan as another. Donald's performance on the green, especially given the distance he gives away from the tee, indicates yet again that it's all about putting. That's why he's number one.
09.30.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroglodyte
Moving away from Super Smooth Luke to the Wal-Mart Wonder that is JD
Call me a white-trash apologist, but I find it beautiful that John Daly plays so well at the Old Course.
There are forces in this game we all love that will remain incomprehensible.
09.30.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeff
Oh to think what I'd be shooting if I never 3-putted...! I'm happy if I even go one round without a 3-putt.
09.30.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Although he wins occasionally, Donald is much better know for a number of incidental (non-winning related) statistics - three-putt streaks, very high percentage of top-ten finishes, probably the all-time leader of back-door high finishes, probably the richest golfer with such a low win rate, and the longest-reigning world #1 not to win a major.

"Luke Donald Disease" was coined to describe the inability of rich young British golfers not to win a major (the last British Champion was Paul Lawrie - the last multiple winner was Faldo). The hype was that Donald would be Faldo's heir apparent, until he was struck by the "disease."

Instead, Donald has just gotten older and much much richer since the "disease" was first identified, but still no major victory. Luke Donald Disease just becomes more entrenched.
09.30.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarky Mark
Marky; I find very poor judging a player only because of winning majors. As an exemple, I believe Monty was a lot better player than many major winners (Hamilton?Curtis?Micheel?Beem?), although suffering from "Donald's desease".
09.30.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoi
MarkyMark - What's a "back door high finish?"
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterLip Out
@Lip Out - For example, starting the final round T20, shooting really low and ending up T4, but never coming within a few shots of the winner. Kevin Chappell at the 2011 US Open might be the best recent example.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric
Eric and Lip Out; that's called "Sergio Garcia's disease". 17 top 10 at majors but no real chances to win except Medinah 1999 and Carnoustie 2007. Anyway, as it happens with Donald, I don't see him as a bad player at all.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoi
Give poor Luke a break. This year he's won the PGA Championship (biggest European Tour event), the Scottish Open (possibly the second biggest) and the WGC Matchplay. He's just not got lucky in the majors. There a lot more players worthy of criticism for not fulfilling their potential/cruising through their careers.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered Commenteract38
I'd trade my playing career record for Luke's.
I once went more than 449 hours without a 3-putt. Of course, that was during a 3-week period when I couldn't play golf at all.
@ Shackelfordians

Don't buy the self-deprecation foisted by KLG. I've witness his stroke on a strange set of greens and it's solid.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterOld Hornet
I promise you, if LD had to putt from where I hit on the greens that streak would have ended MONTHS ago. I'm just sayin.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered Commenterthebigdad
@Moi - I recall Sergio teeing off in the last group at Hoylake in 2006. In that banana yellow outfit, my eyes still hurt. He was out of it by the 5th hole, mind you.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim in Hoylake
Tim, I thought he was out of it when he left his 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole eight feet short...
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Incredible. But he still hates Americans and wears nurse pants.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered Commentercalvin coolidge
While Marky Mark and I have often been on completely opposite ends of whichever the playing filed at hand was, I think he is spot on regarding LDD.

@ Moi, Luke Donald ain't no Monty! Never was, never will be!!

Luke Donald ain't nothing but a rich man's Bill Haas.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
Del the Funk

Haas won. And he is not wearing nurse pants (I hope). And we don't have to be subjected to his "art".
10.1.2011 | Unregistered Commentercalvin coolidge
Among the best golfers in the world, on both major Tours? Check
Pleasant and a good sport? Check
Winner of significant titles? Check
Accomplished visual artist? Check
Graduate of Northwestern? Check (I think)
Husband? Check
Father? Check
The latter two of which any of us would be happy to be his father-in-law? Check

More people need to be afflicted with LDD.

Thanks, Hornet. That was a very good day on very good greens. That vermicidal wedge on 18 still bothers me though.
It's too early to admit Donald into the Can't Win the Big One Club, whose members include Monty, Westwood and Garcia. Donald ramped up his commitment to the game this year, particularly in the area of fitness. The result was the best year of his career – three worldwide victories (including a WGC), the No. 1 world ranking and a huge lead in the Race to Dubai. Maybe this will be his peak, but then he's only 33.

If he still doesn't have a major title six or seven years from now, then go ahead and throw him in with all the other guys who are money machines but can't win majors.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMJS
Ky, no disputing those facts. Luke is a nice guy. Haas is a nice guy. But it isn't a nice guy contest. Actually, as I think about it, in truth I don't really know if either are nice guys. Both really seem like nice guys. G=Lover seems like a nice guy, whether Luke's betrothed would agree is another thing entirely.

In my book guys like Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley are both better players than guy is a faux #1.

calvin, Haas won a pillow fight. Winning a fall finish event is tougher to do.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
In Luke's defence, he is trying to win the money list on both tours; that would be one for the books. Certainly, no one has done that before have they?
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim in Hoylake
@hawkeye - you are probably right; I spent the first four holes looking for better shades; in fact today the temperature was 27C (80 F), and it hasn't been that hot around here since that day in 2006.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim in Hoylake
@Tim in Hoylake.....

Its never been done officially but there were multiple seasons that Tiger would have led both money lists had he been an official Euro Tour member. Damn fine accomplishment for Luke if he pulls it off.
10.1.2011 | Unregistered CommenterOWGR Fan
Narky Mark:

Paul Lawrie the last British major winner? Do you know something about Northern Ireland that the rest if us don't?

Del's comment about Bradley and McDowell is a head-scratcher, but it does seem more and more folks see pro golf that way.
10.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott W
I am pro-Donald. As with many graceful athletes, when he wins it looks easy, and when he loses it looks lazy. Beneath the waterline, the swans are mostly paddling just as hard as the geese.

LD may never win a Major, but play em all with v-grooves and persimmon, and/or over 1980s yardages, and I think he'd win several.

As far as the number one ranking goes, we all know that in terms of greatness the current King is in exile (perhaps for ever). But in terms of consistency Luke or Westy, while incomparably less regal, are as worthy of the top ranking as many or all who stood second in the Tiger years (Furyk, Stricker, Sergio, etc).

Del, I agree with you on this: G-Shag, sorry G-Mac is in SOME ways the man you'd pick on yr team - despite LD's impressive Ryder Cup record.

But back to "Luke Donald disease". In my opinion it DOES exist. It's a condition that affects many, though by no means all, who condemn Luke Donald. Victims of the disease appear to be insecure about their own virility, and fall victim to the delusion that they can boost it by disparaging Luke Donald for not being long enough, macho enough, killer enough, etc. This doc advises be careful not to protest too much, boys. Remember that for every woman who swoons at a man in a Lamborghini there are two who exchange knowing glances and wiggle a pinkie.
10.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSean

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