Rozner: Luke Donald searching for spot at Medinah

  • Chicago favorite Luke Donald, seen here teeing off on the 14th hole Sunday at TPC Deere Run, is hoping to return to Medinah next month for the BMW Championship.

      Chicago favorite Luke Donald, seen here teeing off on the 14th hole Sunday at TPC Deere Run, is hoping to return to Medinah next month for the BMW Championship. Barry rozner | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/15/2019 2:49 PM

Medinah holds a special place in Luke Donald's heart.

But the Northwestern product and Chicago favorite has more in mind than seeing old friends and reconnecting with a course he loves next month in the BMW Championship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 41-year-old Donald is trying to get his career back together after back injuries and coaching changes.

Playing 2019 on a major medical exemption, Donald has three more chances to climb into the playoff race, after falling short with a great opportunity at the John Deere Classic.

A Top 10 was there for him during a birdie festival, but he finished with an even-par 71 Sunday and a tie for 56th.

"I would really like to play my way back into the (FedEx Cup) playoffs," Donald said at TPC Deere Run. "Medinah is an added bonus, having spent a good deal of time in Chicago. I've got a lot of fans and friends there.

"Having played a Ryder Cup there on a winning team adds a little extra incentive. It's a great place for me."

Donald has been at the center of the last two events at Medinah, where the Purple People were out in full force and throat in support of Donald, even at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Team Europe staged the greatest comeback in the history of the tournament on foreign soil.

Not only did Donald take down Bubba Watson as the first man out in Sunday singles, but there was a shot late Saturday afternoon that might have saved the tournament for Europe.

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The visitors were down 10-4 and the sun was starting to set on Saturday -- and Team Europe -- when Donald and Sergio Garcia reached the par-3 17th hole against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.

Woods and Stricker had rallied from 4 down to get within 1 -- the huge crowds all over this match -- when Woods stuffed his tee shot to a couple feet, firing at a front left pin just over the water.

But the roar of the day did not deter Donald, who matched Woods with an iron inside the flagstick and Europe halved the hole, eventually securing victory on 18.

Behind them, Rory McIlroy watched in shock as Ian Poulter made everything, carrying Europe in the final bout of the day from down 2 with 6 to play against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Instead of 11-3 or 12-4 after Saturday, Europe was within 10-6 heading to Sunday.

"Possibly one of the best iron shots I've ever hit in my life on 17, especially following Tiger," Donald said. "Those last two matches Saturday really gave us a chance, me and Sergio winning our match, and Poulter and Rory behind us winning their match gave us a glimmer of hope.

"Sunday went our way and the rest is history. Lot of good memories there."

Donald even smiles at thoughts of Sunday at the 2006 PGA Championship, when he played in the final group with Woods at Medinah. He started the day tied for the lead at 14-under, but played 2-over while Woods was 4-under and won by 5 over Shaun Micheel.

"It was fun to play with Tiger in his prime, last group on a Sunday in a major championship. That was a big deal for me," said Donald, who was 28 at the time. "I didn't play my best. Hung in there, think I finished third.

"Great support, loyal fan base really made me feel good out there, and kind of loved. Nice to be in that arena."

In order to return to Medinah in August, Donald will probably need a Top 10 in the next three tournaments to get inside the Top 125, and then something solid in the first playoff event to move into the Top 70.

"My game is trending. Definitely going in the right direction," Donald said. "I've finally been able to put some reps together and some good solid rounds, like 16-under for my last seven competitive rounds and that's a good sign."

He's still got time. Maybe Luke Donald can go home again.

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