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The conundrum of Luke Donald

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With all of the bombers on the PGA Tour, one has to wonder how guys like Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Luke Donald survive.

Tiger Woods brought in the era of bomb-and-gouge it. Then back-to-back wins at the Masters by Johnson and Trevor Immelman in 2007-08 reminded us that having well-rounded golf games can still win you titles, major championship ones at that.

Since turning pro in 2001, Donald has never been considered a bomber. More often he is described as a solid ball-striker.

However, he ranks just 149th on the PGA Tour in ball-striking, which combines a players total driving and greens in regulation numbers.

If he isn't a great ball-striker, he must hit a ton of greens. Think again. He is just 141st in greens in regulation. And Donald ranks only 49th in fairways hit.

Let's piece this together. The 33-year-old Donald doesn't hit the ball that far. He isn't very accurate off the tee, and his iron game isn't exactly crisp.

So how was Donald, who leads the PGA Tour in scoring average, a Sunday win at the Heritage away from becoming the No. 1 player in the world?

Putting. Putting. Putting.

The Englishman tops the PGA Tour in putting average and is second in putts per round.

It might not look pretty from tee to green with Donald, but get that flat- blade in his hands and the ball will find the bottom of the cup rather quickly.

If you look at Donald's record, his solid putting numbers jump out at one of his victories and at the Ryder Cup.

His first World Golf Championship win came earlier this year when he won the Accenture Match Play Championship. Putting is always huge in match-play events.

Donald's putting prowess really shows itself in the foursomes, or alternate shot, format at the Ryder Cup. In foursomes play, Donald has run up a 6-0-0 record in three appearances.

He is just 0-1-1 in fourballs and 2-1 in singles. So you give him a partner that will find the green more often than not and Donald's putting will carry his team to victory.

In his first two appearances at the Ryder Cup, Donald was paired with Sergio Garcia in all four foursomes rounds played. They took down Tiger Woods once, Phil Mickelson once and Jim Furyk twice in those four matches.

In 2010, Donald was paired with countrymen Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood in the two foursomes sessions. Donald and Westwood trounced Woods and Steve Stricker, and that was no small feat at the time.

Woods and Stricker entered that match with a 6-0 record as a team, including 4-0 at the Presidents Cup.

Donald might not be the straightest driver, neither are Tiger or Phil. He might not be the longest driver, neither are Zach and Trevor.

But once Donald's ball is on the green, it will find the cup in very few putting strokes and that is what makes his scoring average so easy to believe.

THORPE OUT OF JAIL, BACK ON THE COURSE

Jim Thorpe spent 10 months in prison for failure to pay taxes between 2002 and 2004. Now that he is out, he is back on the Champions Tour.

The 62-year-old failed to break par in his first event back, the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, but came back with a fifth place finish when teamed with Dana Quigley at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

"I'm very happy to be back. Can't wait to get back into competition," Thorpe said prior to the Outback.

He went on to explain that he has created a group called Team Thorpe.

That team was created to make sure "that things that happened in the past would not happen again."

Thorpe has always been a popular figure on the Champions Tour, but was still nervous to return because he didn't know what his golf game would bring.

"For some reason, I feel a little nervous. I don't really know why," admitted Thorpe, who missed the entire 2010 season on the Champions Tour.

"Basically because I don't know what to expect when I hit the first tee shot and that sort of stuff. But it's like playing football. Once you get the first hit, the game is on."

He took a hard hit from the reality of life, but is now back doing what he loves to do most, play golf. Here's hoping Thorpe brings his game all the way back and collects Champions Tour win No. 14 this season.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Since Brandt Snedeker bested Donald in a three-hole playoff Sunday, Lee Westwood returned to the No. 1 position in the world on the strength of his victory in Indonesia on Sunday.

- The LPGA Tour returns to action this week with the Avnet LPGA Classic. As always there will be a strong field on hand with nine of the top-10 players in the world and 18 of the top 25 overall playing this week in Alabama.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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