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In an era where long balls and long courses rule golf, Donald relies on accuracy and precision. When Mickelson tees off, the ball seems to sizzle in the air. Donald’s is softer and sounds, well, normal. He ranks 148th on the PGA Tour in driving distance — 279.9 yards per try — but is 13th in driving accuracy.

Close to a machine, Fred Couples called Donald.

Shear’s workouts focus on technique and efficiency, not strength or power. Preparing for the four majors is the overarching goal. Once Shear texted Donald to make certain he got in his workout.

“You don’t need to check on me,” Shear remembers Donald texting back. “You tell me to do it, and it’s going to be done.”

Nicklaus remembered Donald’s obsessive use of the practice greens at the The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., where he is a member.

“He spends his time chipping and putting, chipping and putting,” Nicklaus said. “And, I mean, he wears out the practice greens. … Luke isn’t the longest hitter on Tour, so he has to make up for it elsewhere.”

That includes bringing aboard Dave Alred, better known for his work as a kicking coach with English rugby star Jonny Wilkinson. From 1995 to 2006, Alred was an assistant coach on England’s national rugby team. Now, in addition to kicking instruction, he offers work with “mental preparation, skills acquisition and performance under pressure.”

The performance diary was Alred’s idea when they partnered in 2010. He also designs drills to make Donald practice under pressure, rather robotically smacking ball after ball at the ranges. Exercises such as seeing how many tries he needs to chip five balls into a six-foot wide circle are common. Or hit five shots with a specific swing, then suddenly be ordered to play a ball as if he’s on the course. All the work has improved his accuracy, particularly off the tee.

“I got to a point where I was trying to hit the ball too hard,” Donald said. “For as far as I hit a ball, I needed to hit more fairways than I did.”

In Alred’s key drill, Donald plays nine holes with three attempts per shot. Each shot is graded. Repeatedly negative ones get extra work.

“The most important thing is that it changes your mindset as to what you could be,” Alred told The (London) Telegraph.

The one thing Donald hasn’t done is capture a major. Congressional’s Blue Course checks in at 7,568 yards, the second-longest setup in U.S. Open history. But Nicklaus believes the course works in Donald’s favor because precision shot-making, not brute power, will be the primary factor.

To Donald, reaching No. 1 is an accomplishment for yourself. Winning a major, he said, establishes you as one of golf’s greats in the eyes of your peers.

That formula doesn’t require a statistics degree to understand.