While you’re unlikely to see his face on a video-game cover, England’s Luke Donald is ranked as the best golfer on Earth. It’s been a triumphant year for the 34-year-old and, as he tries to claim his first major win at this week’s Open Championship, we grilled him to find out the secrets of his meteoric rise.
In golf, is it important to look after yourself physically?
More than ever – if you stay relatively fit you can now play for 30 or 40 years. I make sure I spend an hour per day in the gym. Firstly, if I’m staying in shape over a long period of time I’ll be more consistent than the guy who doesn’t. And secondly, I have inabilities in my body that relate to my swing, so if I can work on those it makes me better.
What inabilities exactly?
I have poor flexibility in my hamstrings, which has given me back issues. I’m constantly working on improving flexibility, both in my right shoulder for the backswing and in my right hip that I whip around with when I’m coming through to hit the ball.
Which exercise is most effective?
Throwing an 8lb medicine ball in a movement similar to swinging a golf club – it targets the key areas and creates speed in the swing. It’s also helped centre my club head when I’m hitting the ball at speed.
You have been using Dave Alred, Jonny Wilkinson’s former kicking guru, as a physiological coach. What are his methods like?
The FIG [F*ck, I’m Good] method is fun, and effective too. You play nine or 18 holes and give yourself three opportunities for every shot you have. So if you hit the first one and you like it, you carry on. If not, you can have two more attempts. It’s a good way to show yourself that with a couple of extra opportunities you can lower your round.
What about nutrition – do you eat carefully?
I’m sensible, not over the top. I often enjoy a rich meal and a nice dessert, but I eat in moderation.
Do you ever visualise winning?
I never think of a future win. I prefer to visualise past experiences of winning.
Do you use any sophisticated gadgetry in training?
Quite the opposite: I use a string and needles to mark a putting line. And I use an Eyeline Putting Mirror, which is a device that aligns your shot while letting you see where your eyes fall in relation to the ball – many people tilt their head when they putt, which makes it difficult to hit the ball straight.
What’s the best way to increase your driving distance?
Use two different drivers in practice: your regular driver, and another one that’s 15 per cent heavier. Hit 10 balls a time with each of them, using the heavy club first and the light one second, and you’ll see the speed of your shot gradually increasing.
And finally, what’s the most effective way to spend 30 minutes on a practice range?
Go straight to the chipping green or putting green and work on your short game – the business end. That’s the best way to lower a handicap.
Luke Donald wears Ralph Lauren RLX. Ralph Lauren is the official patron of the Open; ralphlauren.com
(Image: Rex Features)