‘I ask Michael Jordan for advice,’ says Luke Donald as he eyes up success for this season
With basketball legend Michael Jordan now among the people he probes for advice, Luke Donald is excited to be finally starting a 2013 season he hopes will be his best yet.
England's world number three, who has not played a tournament since November, returns in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles.
"Practice is tough, competing is fun," said Donald, who in his last five events of last year had a win in Japan and third-place finishes in America, China and Dubai.
Capturing his first major is, as ever, top of the agenda and having Jordan as a member of the same club in Florida was too good an opportunity for the 35-year-old to miss.
"He's good for the mind," Donald said. "He's been making sure that I'm ready mentally.
"It's been good to pick Michael's brains and find out what he was thinking about when he was playing basketball. He's always trying to play mind games - he doesn't like to lose."
After such a long lay-off he will not be reading too much into this week's result, whatever it is.
Two years ago Donald missed the cut after a second-round 79, and then a week later gave one of the most impressive displays of his career in winning the Accenture Match Play Championship.
That was the launchpad for a memorable season which saw him top the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic - a previous unprecedented feat matched last year by Rory McIlroy - and reach the world number one spot.
McIlroy and Tiger Woods are now ahead of him on the rankings, but he said: "I still believe that I can have the chance to be number one again.
"The rankings are tough because you basically have to at least match what you did in the season previously not to fall back. Last year was solid for me, but I lost so many points because I had such a great year in 2011.
"It's very hard to keep up. Rory's going to see some of that this year."
Donald plays the opening two rounds this week with Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell and Australian Adam Scott, both of whom are also making their first appearances of the year.
McDowell could not have finished 2012 on a greater high, winning the World Challenge in California for the second time in three years, while Scott captured the Australian Masters in November - his first victory since blowing The Open at Royal Lytham.
Another group is Phil Mickelson, Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley, the three players who fought out a play-off won by Haas last year.
Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Open champion Ernie Els are also in the field, as is Vijay Singh, whose use of deer antler spray continues to be investigated by the PGA.