by G. Rennie
The enduring image from Sunday’s round at Castle Stuart was the effortless control exhibited by Luke Donald as he took his first Scottish Open trophy. They say the great ones make the difficult look easy and Luke made his 63 over the saturated links look routine. Donald doesn’t overpower a course as much as seduce it with fairly straight but short driving, superb wedge play, an unmatched sand game and steely putting. This is all brought together with a game plan and a thinking man’s approach to the game. As Donald walked the back nine of Gil Hanse’s celebrated new links it was like a stroll back in time as the game he played evoked a type of golf largely lost from the modern pro tours.
Golf’s biggest names today are predominantly big bombers and the cohort of young guns who are beginning to make reputations and history all play the long game. From Tiger and Phil through Bubba and Rory, Quiros, Watney, Kaymer and Rickie they all launch it and go find it. Surely, each of these gents has a bag full of other skills and dimensions to their games but the first weapon out of the bag is power. Not so with Donald and it seems that his relative lack of power has led to him concentrate on developing his other strengths.
When Jack Nicklaus roared onto the scene he displayed a combination of long game and course management that none of his contemporaries could imitate. Tiger’s power game was shocking at first, then supplemented by the revolution in club and ball technology. In a strange twist, the technology surge helped to bring Tiger back to the pack, at least in terms of the long game. Tiger dominated his peers not merely by overpowering them but with a combination of course management, short game wizardry and incomparable putting. Despite the comprehensive brilliance that Tiger displayed one of his legacies seems to be that the new prototype for a golf professional is first and foremost to bomb it.
Luke Donald has taken a different road. He’s developed a wonderful all around game and a relaxed manner that hides a compelling drive to compete: World #1, 16 of 18 top tens, Match Play Champ, and local favorite at The Open Championship. Not bad for a short hitter.