NU's Donald breaks a sweat tackling 'major' question

Luke DonaldTiger WoodsRory McIlroyPGA TourMasters TournamentCharl Schwartzel

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The highlight of Luke Donald’s Masters media session came after a reporter asked for the proper criteria to define the best player without a major victory.

Could it be, perhaps, the man who won the 2011 PGA Tour and European money lists and is ranked No. 1 in the world?

“Obviously, my name would be in the hat,” Donald said. “It's a tough question to answer.”

Reporter: “That’s why I asked it.”

Donald then leaned back, removed his visor and said with a laugh: “I'll wipe the sweat off now.”

The Northwestern alum and North Shore resident almost popped his major bubble last year at Augusta National. He stepped to the 12th tee on Sunday two shots off the lead, but then dumped a 9-iron into Rae’s Creek. He finished four behind champion Charl Schwartzel with rounds of 72-68-69-69.

“That’s what’s magical about this tournament,” Donald said. “Sunday is usually a great chance to make a run. Some of the pins are in feeder places where you can make some eagles and birdies.”

Donald last year said he planned to “defy convention” by becoming the first to win both the Par 3 Contest and the Masters. He won the Par 3 but will pass on the event this year.

So does he now believe in the jinx?

“No, I probably will play it when my kids get a little bit older because I think it would be a great experience to have my daughters carry a few clubs around with me,” he said. “But playing on greens that are not quite the same the afternoon before the first round doesn't seem the best preparation for me.”

Donald said he has been fiddling with his 9-degree driver for chips just off the green: “A lot of people use rescues, 3¿woods, putters.  But I just found the driver had the perfect loft to go through the grass. Whether I'll use it this year or not, I'm not sure.”

Donald, 34, is certain that even though Tiger Woods (4-to-1) and Rory McIlroy (5-to-1) are heavy favorites, he has a good chance. The Bovada Sportsbook lists him fifth at 16-to-1.

“I’m still a decent number with the bookies, aren’t I?” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve been written off yet.”

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

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