Updated: 17/06/2012 16:35 | By pa.press.net

Donald ready for tough test



Luke Donald is hoping to win his first major

Luke Donald is hoping to win his first major

Only a month to go before the athletes of the world gather in London, but in golf the Olympic action starts on Thursday.

Rory McIlroy defends his US Open title at the Olympic Club in San Francisco and does not have to look far for two of the biggest threats to his crown. Northern Ireland's world number two plays the opening two rounds with number one Luke Donald and third-ranked Lee Westwood.

"I like it. I think it really adds to the atmosphere," said McIlroy, who after a troublesome build-up - three successive missed cuts prior to last week's seventh place in Memphis - plans a far more attacking approach than he thought likely on a course where not a single player broke par on its last staging of the event in 1998.

By the time Europe's 'Big Three' tee off just before 1.30pm, however, many of the sell-out crowd will have seen what they came for. "I certainly don't think it's the most recognisable group - we all know who that is," said Donald.

He was referring to the latest head-to-head clash between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, given even more fan appeal by the fact that Masters champion Bubba Watson will be alongside them.

That star-studded trio begin their bids just after 7.30am and, given the accepted difficulty of the opening six-hole stretch, they will not mind in the least that they, like half the field, start on the 449-yard ninth.

McIlroy, Donald and Westwood do not have that chance to ease their way - relatively speaking - into the championship. They kick off with the 520-yard first, the third longest par four in US Open history. The course also includes the longest par five in major history, the 670-yard 16th.

"It's a tough track," added Donald, once again hoping this might be the week he ends his wait for a major. "It challenges every part of your game from the first tee shot to when you walk off 18. It's a grind. Even the easy holes, there's always trouble lurking - and you've just got to play solid golf."

The 34-year-old has won the last two BMW PGA Championships over a Wentworth examination that is a much sterner test than it used to be. His confidence should also be boosted by the need to play a lot of left-to-right shots - a fade for him, a draw for left-handers Mickelson and Watson.

"I feel like it suits my eye reasonably well. Certainly the guy that can control the fade around this course is going to have a slight advantage," he said. "I feel more comfortable and more in control if I'm hitting a slight fade."

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    1989: Born on May 4 in Holywood, Northern Ireland.