Donald is No. 1, but not when it comes to US Open

Luke Donald, the top-ranked player in the world, didn’t make a

single birdie in the first round of the U.S. Open and to make

matters worse, he couldn’t beat a 14-year-old.

”I tried to stay patient, tried to stay positive. But when I

had those opportunities on the greens I couldn’t take them,”

Donald said after shooting 9-over 79 on Thursday.

That number left him tied with teen sensation Andy Zhang, the

amateur who at least showed a flair for the big stage by managing

to birdie his final hole. Donald likewise had an 18-footer at No.

18 to salvage his birdie-less round, but never threatened the


”My putter kind of went cold today, otherwise I could have

probably ground out some more respectable score. But this place is

tough,” the Englishman said. ”I feel like even from yesterday, it

got a lot tougher and I didn’t hit the shots when I needed


Unfortunately, neither of Donald’s partners were much better and

every golfer knows how bad play spreads like a cold. No. 2 Rory

McIlroy skidded to a 77 and third-ranked Lee Westwood, who

recovered somewhat back nine, returned a 73.

”The top three in the world and we make three (birdies) between

us,” Donald said. ”It shows how tough it is.”

For a short hitter whose game places a premium on accuracy,

Donald hit just six of 14 fairways and half the greens. The strange

thing is that Donald came to The Olympic Club in good form, having

won his second title of the season three weeks ago. And only last

year, the 34-year-old pulled off the unprecedented feat of topping

the money lists on both the PGA and European Tours.

But those accomplishments provide a sharp contrast to his record

in the tournaments that matter most, especially the U.S. Open.

Donald has managed a tie for fifth or better at the Masters,

British Open and PGA Championship. But in eight previous U.S.

Opens, his best finish is a tie for 12th; twice before, he failed

to reach the weekend.

”The U.S. Open, the margins are that much smaller and if you’re

just a little bit off, which I was today, it’s tough,” Donald

said. ”And then you have to really rely on chipping it close and

making some putts and I didn’t do that.”

To say the crown sits uneasy on his head is hardly an

understatement. In other sports, the No. 1 ranking either gets you

a bye in the opening round or a top seed. In golf, it only

increases expectations.

”The slight distraction, which is less so for me because I kind

of go under the radar, is that there’s a little bit more

attention,” he conceded earlier in the week. ”A little more


One more round like his first and at least Donald won’t have to

worry about that.