Luke Donald is showing signs of being Luke Donald again. With his 40th birthday in December and his No. 1 ranking now five years gone, the Englishman is coming off his second-straight second-place finish in the RBC Heritage. “I think we’re close,” said long-time swing coach Pat Goss. If every tournament were played at Harbour Town Golf Links, Donald would actually be there. With seven top-three finishes in his last nine appearances in Hilton Head, Donald’s game is an almost perfect fit for the Pete Dye design. What prevented Donald from winning on Sunday was a double bogey at the second hole and four straight pars after pulling into a tie for the lead. While finishing one-stroke back of Wesley Bryan, Donald said he was “really happy with the grinding and grit” he showed to come back and give himself a chance. Goss pointed to three-straight top-30 finishes on tough tests at Pebble Beach, Riviera and PGA National earlier this year that indicated the work they’ve been putting in is starting to show results. Being ranked 69th in the world, one of Donald’s biggest challenges is putting together a schedule that doesn’t include the first two majors or World Golf Championship in 2017. With his age, lack of length off the tee and three young children at home, Donald is at a point where his career could be winding down. But Goss, who has known Donald since he coached him at Northwestern, sees a rebirth after they reunited following a phase where Luke sought out Chuck Cook as a swing consultant. “He’s very committed right now,” Goss said. “He really believes he can still compete at a high level, believes he can win, and wants to play on Ryder Cups. So he’s still working hard and pushing hard to be the best player he can.”
Tiger Woods, Dan Marino and Mike Schmidt at the retirement party for Buddy Antonopoulos at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., last week. “I respect their careers like you can’t believe, but when it comes down to it, they’re just my pals,” said Antonopoulos, the head pro at Medalist since the club opened in January 1995. Missing the celebration was Greg Norman, who was on a business trip in China. As founder of Medalist, Norman hired Antonopoulos on Oct. 11, 1993. Antonopoulos (above with Marino) calls that day the best of his career. “We set out to make it one of greatest places in golf, and I think we did OK with that,” Antonopoulos, 69, said. His relationship with Norman developed the same day he met Woods at Old Marsh Golf Club, when Woods and Norman played nine holes on New Year’s Eve in 1991, the day after Tiger turned 16. As Old Marsh’s head pro at the time, Antonopoulos, an Augusta, Ga., native, bonded with Tiger’s father, Earl, in the clubhouse, exchanging experiences from the Vietnam War. “Tiger and I have shared a special friendship since he joined Medalist,” Antonopoulos said. Antonopoulos was also the second director of golf at the TPC Sawgrass at the same time his brother, Ted, was director of golf at the TPC Eagle Trace. After 23 years at Medalist, Antonopoulos was granted an honorary membership and will still be giving lessons at the club.
The reaction of U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad over the backlash he was receiving on social media for his putting stroke while making the cut and finishing low amateur in the Masters. “It’s kind of funny,” Hagestad told me over the weekend. “But I guess it goes with the territory.” The territory in question is the butt end of Hagestad’s broomstick, and whether it was in contact with his body during competition at Augusta National, violating the anchored-stroke ban. None of Hagestad’s playing partners (Larry Mize, Brian Stuard or Daniel Berger) raised concerns. “I went out of my way at least to my fellow competitors so it was obvious what was going on,” said Hagestad, whose career turned around after his sophomore season at USC, when he went into a discount golf shop in Los Angeles and purchased the putter he still has today. Using 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott as his model, Hagestad started making the six-to-eight-footers he was missing before. He talked about it with Scott, who encouraged him to use the method that was most comfortable. Rather than switch away from the long putter after adoption of the anchoring ban in 2016, Hagestad went to a method Bernhard Langer uses, moving his hands slightly away from his chest so as not to touch his body. “I’ve tried to make it clear that it’s not on the inside of the body,” Hagestad said. “You could literally see the top of the putter [grip]. You could see my hands were out there away from my body.”