AUGUSTA, Ga. — They are not booing when the World No. 1 approaches each green, they are cooing, as any Bruce Springsteen fan will tell you. Not "Bruuuuce," but "Luuuuke."
Luke Donald receives his share of support from the galleries, but he knows he doesn't have the outgoing personality of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson or the celebrity of Tiger Woods. Donald is the Invisible Man, the World No. 1 Ghost. But while most of the talk at the Masters suggests the only story in town is Rory vs. Tiger, the 34-year-old Englishman now fighting out of Chicago obviously disagrees.
"I have my own things that motivate me," Donald said. "Everyone wants to make that kind of rivalry. Tiger is always the guy that pushes the needle the most, and Rory gets a lot of attention now. But for me that's a good thing.
"I can go about my business and just get on with things," he continued. "It's a little naïve to say they are the only two that have a chance to win."
This is Donald's eighth appearance at the Masters, and his confidence is at an all-time high after finishing fourth last year and reaching the top of the World Ranking the next month. This year he plans to hit more 3-woods off the tee and rely on his Superman skills with a wedge and putter. Look out for an unusual use of his driver, too. He's been practicing chipping with it around the greens, using its nine degrees of loft to bounce the ball onto the glacier-slick greens.
"I'm a different player because of all of the victories," Donald said. "Having won five times in the last 14 months, you gain confidence from that. Four of them I think I didn't play my best golf and still managed to win. That was important for me to know."
Donald has realized you don't have to be great to win; you just have to be good enough. That's important to remember, he said, especially on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday.
"Some of the Sunday pins are in feeder places where you can make eagles and birdies," he said. "It doesn't mean you have to press." Donald is all too aware that the one thing missing from his resume is a major championship title. As No. 1, he also holds the unwanted moniker of Best Player Never To Have Won A Major, and Donald suggested that his rivals could well push him to shed that title this week. "It's great if you have talent like Rory McIlroy pushing you to work harder to try and find that next level," Donald said. "It's no different with Rory to Lee, Tiger and Phil. It inspires me."
Nick Faldo is also inspiring Donald. England's Knight of the Realm and now CBS commentator was the last Englishman to win a major when he hauled in Greg Norman here at the 1996 Masters. Donald plans to end the dry spell.
"I don't know why there's been a drought," he said. "English golf is doing very well right now. We are winning tournaments. We just have to turn those into major wins."
Donald said a victory in the British Open would be a dream come true, but that Augusta National is the major venue that best suits his game.
"I feel the most comfortable around Augusta at the Masters, and the more times you play it, the more comfortable you feel," Donald said. "I suppose if I had to pick one that I would be favored in, it would probably be the Masters."
And a green jacket would go rather splendidly with Donald's trademark white cricket pants.