BELEK Turkey (Reuters) - Luke Donald has been suffering in a dark space in recent times but the former world number one believes he can start to see some shafts of light at the end of a long tunnel.
The Englishman’s confidence has taken something of a battering but he was bathed in smiles on Sunday after two eagles helped him conclude his Turkish Airlines Open campaign with a five-under-par 67.
Donald improved with each passing day at the European Tour’s penultimate event of the season, following a poor opening 74 on Thursday and subsequent rounds of 73 and 68.
“It’s been a bit frustrating lately,” the 36-year-old told Reuters in a typically understated way on a sun-kissed day by the Mediterranean.
”I’ve been banging my head against a wall for the last few months. It’s tough when you know you are a capable player and it’s not quite happening for you.
“This game will get to you sometimes but I‘m quietly confident with the work I’ve been doing with my coach and it’s starting to pay off,” added Donald, who has slipped to 37th in the world having spent 56 weeks at the top of the rankings in 2011 and 2012.
“For three or four months there I wasn’t really making any birdies and this weekend I’ve started to score well. It’s a good sign that it’s all starting to come back.”
Having endured the agony of missing out on a place in Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team in Scotland in September, Donald reunited with former coach Pat Goss after admitting the radical swing change he underwent with Chuck Cook had not worked.
“Pat and I are doing meticulous work from 150 yards and in, I‘m trying to again be one of the best in the world from that kind of distance,” he explained.
”I‘m never going to be a power player so controlling the ball from 150 yards and in is important for me.
“Any time you’re working on those kind of things it’s always difficult because you really want to go out on the course without many thoughts,” said the four-time Ryder Cup player.
“Right now, I’ve got a few thoughts out there but every day it seems to be getting a little better.”
Donald is regarded as one of the best players never to have won a major and he is now attempting to focus on the areas of his game which once put him on top of the world.
“I‘m trying to be very good again at what I‘m usually good at. I had got away from that for most of this season,” said the Chicago-based Englishman after finishing in a tie for 32nd position in Turkey with a six-under tally of 282.
“I don’t want to concentrate too much on my perceived weaknesses, like my driving and long irons, but try and focus on my strengths.”
Donald, who started his round at the 10th on Sunday, received the welcome boost of eagle threes at the 18th and fourth holes.
”It’s been quite a while since I’ve had two eagles in the same round,“ he smiled, ”I don’t generally have too many in a year.
”I finally hit the fairway at the 18th, which helps, and then had a three-wood from about 270 yards, caught a ridge perfectly and wound up eight feet away.
“Then at the fourth I hit a three-iron to tap-in distance. They are nice eagles when you don’t have to stress too much about the putts.”
It sounds like Donald has had more than enough stress to contend with in recent months.
“You definitely start to have doubts and you don’t have as much confidence over the ball,” he said.
“You’ve got to build that slowly through good practice and good tournament rounds like today.”
Editing by Ian Chadband