He is a self-confessed late developer, but Jamie Donaldson’s share of second place in the WGC – Cadillac Championship underlined the 38 year old’s timely arrival amongst golf’s elite.
Donaldson took 255 tournaments before he won his first European Tour title at the 2012 Irish Open, but his rise since that breakthrough has been as rapid as it has been impressive.
The Welshman finished 19th on the Race to Dubai two years ago, followed by fifth place in 2013 after claiming his second victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and finishing runner-up in the Turkish Airlines Open.
His share of second spot behind Patrick Reed over the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral on Sunday came in just his eighth appearance in a World Golf Championships event, and alerted an American audience to a player who moved firmly into the reckoning for a spot in Europe’s Ryder Cup
team at Gleneagles in September.
His second big runner-up finish of the season - Donaldson also finished second at the lucrative Nedbank Golf Challenge last December - propels him to second in the European Points List as he looks for a debut Ryder Cup berth, while he also moves ahead of Thomas Bjorn at the top of the embryonic Race to Dubai standings.
Yet Donaldson’s trajectory will surprise few people in Europe who have kept close tabs on the player, whose career was interrupted by a back injury in the mid-2000s.
Nor does it surprise the player himself, who has quietly gone about the task of self-improvement over the last decade, achieving a year-on-year rise on The Race to Dubai since 2007.
“I've always been pretty much a late developer in most things, really,” he said. “I left school before I could develop any there! So I had to play golf, really.
“My career has been up and down for me. Early on, I started off pretty good and then I had a big loss for four years after injury, and then I just had to regroup and do things that worked and work hard and keep believing. I just forced the wheel the other direction, and that's what it's done. I've found something that was working and just kept doing it and kept getting better at doing it, and then here we are getting better, again, so I’m happy.”
Donaldson’s latest milestone performance means he is up to 27th in the latest Official World Golf Ranking, while he is also closing in on becoming the latest Welshman to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, following Ian Woosnam and Philip Price in the recent past.
“This is a big step towards it,” he said. “I needed to have a good week. The Ryder Cup is obviously in the plans but I'm not really thinking too much about it. To get on that team would be cool and it would just be because I'm just playing well, so I just have to keep playing well to enable myself to get on the team.
“I don't really know what I have to do to get in. I haven't been paying attention. I've just been trying to play every week as well as I can and just try and put myself in position more often to win tournaments and do better in America.
“This was a big week, because I haven't played that well in America. It's been getting a little frustrating. But takes time and I just have to deep grafting until I push the doors open really.”
That patience has served Donaldson well so far, and could yet be vital to his continued improvement. Where that will ultimately take him, only time will tell.
“The graphs just keep going up, so all I have to do is keep doing the same things and work hard and trying to find little ways of improving to put myself in a position like now where I'm playing my best golf,” he concluded.