Donald shows there’s another way to the top

ATLANTA (AP) - Luke Donald is unlike any other No. 1 player in golf over the last two decades.

No, he still hasn’t won a major.

What sets Donald apart from Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer most recently, from Tiger Woods for an entire decade, and from Vijay Singh and David Duval during their brief stay at the top, is the way he hits the ball.

In an era of extra large off the tee, Donald still wears a medium.

He is No. 147 in driving distance, and while Donald isn’t exactly a peashooter, no one will ever talk about how he can overpower any golf course except for the Par 3 Course at Augusta National.

The only numbers that matter, however, is that he has been No. 1 in the world longer than anyone else this year. He is No. 1 in Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. He is No. 1 on the European Tour money list and No. 2 on the PGA Tour money list, with a chance to become the first player to win money titles on both sides of the Atlantic.

And along with three wins this year, he has finished out of the top 10 in only five of the 20 tournaments he has played this year.

In some respects, he has become an inspiration to those who don’t fall out of bed and crack 300-yard drives.

“Getting to No. 1, a lot of people wouldn’t have thought I could get there with my kind of a game,” Donald said. “I’m more of a traditional player. That’s kind of my legacy right now, that I’ve been able to get to No. 1 without being a modern-day player. Through hard work and a little bit of thought, I’ve been able to do it.”

Mark Wilson, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year who is No. 132 in driving distance, has been paying attention to his limitations for years. He drew inspiration from Zach Johnson winning the Masters in 2007, when he laid up on the all the par 5s; from Jim Furyk winning the FedEx Cup last year and reaching No. 2 in the world when Woods was at his peak; and most recently, from Donald.

“I remember there was talk 10 years ago how there’s no way a Justin Leonard or a Luke Donald or a Mark Wilson could be No. 1 in the world because they don’t hit it far enough,” Wilson said. “I’ve gotten really mature in the last 12 months to work more on my wedges and realize that’s where the game ultimately lies.

“It is an inspiration to see Luke at No. 1 in the world. He’s always at the top of the leaderboard.”

There’s no reason to think that cannot continue, even if the traditional game is becoming less common. Power will always have an advantage in golf. It was like that for Bobby Jones and for Jack Nicklaus. John Daly made power golf appealing 20 years ago. Woods refined it.

It’s becoming harder to find a promising young player who doesn’t smash it.

“Most of the guys you see coming out now, they all bomb it,” said Dustin Johnson, who does just that. “It seems like that’s kind of a trend now. I don’t know any guys that have come out in the last couple years that were short hitters that are at the top of the PGA Tour.”

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