by Jeff Skinner
Contrary to popular opinion, bigger isn’t always better. Just ask Luke Donald. Donald lives in a world where the bombers rule and he who carries the big stick usually wins the day. But the PGA Tour season is a marathon not a sprint and Donald played his own game all year and one of his many rewards is the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Donald is living proof that those who drive the ball 300 plus yards won’t necessarily be there with the trophy on Sunday. Donald takes pride in hitting it straight and splitting fairways. For years we watched former Players of the Year Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh hit it far but never straight. They would hit their driver over 300 yards and then a wedge from the rough.
Donald’s game is a more refined one and one that should be appreciated for its consistency, skill and sophistication. Donald finished 147th in driving distance this season. But he hit plenty of fairways (64%) and was 57th in driving accuracy.
Donald’s short game was his trademark and what separated him from the rest of the tour. He finished top ten in most every critical short game category. And his putting was even better as he led in total putting, three putt avoidance and in that new fangled and all important strokes gained putting he was first again.
“I’ve done a lot of things this year that probably not a lot of people would have given me much chance of doing,” Donald said. “I think in the last 10 or 20 years, the power game has really taken control of golf. But I think I’ve been a little bit of a breath of fresh air knowing that’s not the only way you can be successful. Through a good short game, good putting, managing your game, you can be successful in other ways.
“I think I’ve proven that quite considerably this year.”
Jim Furyk was last year’s Player of the Year and he was another short driver. Does Donald’s season foretell a new era of the shorter but straighter hitters dominating this game? With the technology that makes even poor drivers hit it a mile, that’s not likely. But what his season does say is that a skilled golfer, no matter his length off the tee will always be able to have his day.