British Open chances: Can Luke Donald handle the pressure?

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

This week before the British Open (or Open Championship for you across the pond), we will be previewing the top players in the world and their chances at Sandwich. We continue with the top ranked player in golf.

Luke Donald

Current world ranking: 1

So far this year: Throw out a missed cut and a T-45 finish at the U.S. Open, and what do you get? A Tiger-esque season that's seen him finish inside the top 10 in nine of his 11 stroke-play events and move to the top spot in the World Golf Rankings. And did we mention he also has three wins worldwide? Yeah, Luke's having a pretty decent season.

Record at the British Open: Donald's Open record has been a mixed bag. He's finished T-5 and T-11 in his last two starts, but prior to 2009, he missed the cut in five of his first eight starts, his best finish a T-35 in 2006. His game has come a long way in the last couple of years, so early stats are probably irrelevant.

Why he could win: Because aside from Rory McIlroy and Steve Stricker, nobody is playing better golf going into the tournament. He won the Barclays Scottish Open just last week with a 9-under 63 in the final round, and has a knack for playing good golf on links-style courses. He's had some success in the last couple of years at this tournament, which should give him even more confidence to go out and win his first major championship.

Why he could fall short: The pressure could be too much. As we saw at the U.S. Open, Donald had trouble living up to the expectation of being the favorite at a major championship. While that was only his first tournament with the No. 1 tag, you have to wonder if things will be different this time around. He's always played better when he's flown under the radar, and he certainly won't get a chance to do that at Royal St. George's.

Our take: Donald's won a host of big events over the last two years, but until he wins a major championship, people will continue to question if he's a legitimate No. 1. Even with the pressure on his shoulders, I still expect Donald to put in a strong showing but come up a little short with a top-3 finish.

Your turn, folks. Do you think Donald can handle the pressure of being the British Open favorite?

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