Luke Donald ranks the BMW PGA Championship as the biggest tournament outside the Major Championships and cannot wait to defend his title at Wentworth Club next month.
The Englishman beat Lee Westwood in a play-off last year to not only claim the coveted trophy but rob his compatriot of the World Number One spot, a position he held for 40 weeks as he enjoyed the most successful season of his career.
This season the World Number One title has seesawed between Donald and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, but the 34 year old knows that if he can produce a similar performance over Wentworth Club’s iconic West Course to 12 months ago, he will return to the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Speaking to journalists via conference call from his home in Chicago, Donald said: “The BMW PGA Championship is the best event we play outside the Majors on The European Tour. Obviously the Majors come first. Those are the events I'm looking to try to win at the top of the list, but Wentworth isn’t far behind.
“For me it has a special, personal feeling too, because I grew up so close to it. I came as a kid a few times to watch and I have some special memories having won there as well. There's a sentimental factor.
“I had a few wins last year, but I think Wentworth was the most fun and the most enjoyable because I got that World Number One ranking. It just all seemed to happen for a reason that week, at the flagship event of The European Tour, going against Lee who was World Number One and doing it in front of lots of friends and family. Especially having grown up just down the road, it was very special.
“It’s a bigger event with the world class field that it attracts, and you always get up for those big events. I'm extremely excited to go back there and defend.”
Donald admits that his victory in 2011 was all the more satisfying because it was Westwood he came up against – and beat.
“Who better to take down than the Number One player?” he said. “And the fact he happened to be British and English, that made that one much more satisfying.
“If I’d been going against a lesser name, the win still would have been special, but in terms of going head to head with Lee, it was a special one. Right now we have so many guys who are ranked highly. We are always trying to get one over the other.
“We do have good relationships off the course, so on the course, certainly we are trying to beat each other.”
Donald’s preparations for the BMW PGA Championship, from May 24-27, will focus on his short game, which last year was a significant factor in him becoming the first player to top The Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour Money List in the same season.
“At the beginning of the year in the off season, I worked quite hard on my golf swing specifically, trying to get my driving a little bit more consistent,” he added. “And I have seen some improvements in that, hitting 80 per cent of the fairways at Augusta and quite a few last week on a very tight course. I'm seeing a lot of improvement in terms of accuracy and controlling it off the tee.
“Sometimes when you work on one part of the game, another part suffers a little bit. My short game has not been as sharp. I'll certainly be ramping up my short game efforts in the next few weeks to get ready to defend at Wentworth and ultimately the next three Majors.”