Northern Trust Open interview: Luke Donald

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February 15, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Northern Trust Open transcripts 

LAURA HILL: We would like to welcome Luke Donald to the interview room today,66 today to match up with a 69 yesterday, 7‑under, two shots off the current lead. You must feel good about your position heading into the weekend.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break, you never know with how you're going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball‑striking‑wise and my short game has been very sharp. I've been excited about that. It's been a big key to my score so far, and, yeah, excited to be in the mix again.

Q. What is it about Riviera? You either play astoundingly well and you contend, or it's the other side of the coin.

LUKE DONALD: I think it's just the nature of this golf course. You know, it's the fine margins between success and failure around here. The greens are very tricky.

You know, if you get a little bit hot with the putter like I have done the last couple days, I've holed three putts from off the fringe, I've holed a bunker shot, I've holed a chip on 10; those kind of things you need to kind of go your way; especially around a course like this where putting and short game is tricky.

The greens are small, and again, you just have to be a little bit off for it to show up. I think it's just the nature of the golf course.

Q. How much of today's round and improvement was getting out on greens that weren't as bumpy as you faced yesterday afternoon?

LUKE DONALD: It's always easier to putt in the morning.  I think the greens are a little bit truer. Obviously perfect conditions this morning. Even when we teed off at 7:11, the sun was poking out behind the houses and it was warming out nicely; compared to the Pro‑Am when I played on Wednesday and it was about 40 degrees and I couldn't feel my fingers, today was a beautiful day to play golf.

You know, whether that's a good side of the draw or not; but the weather seems like it's going to be pretty good all day.

Q. Brandt Snedeker spoke Sunday about how you gave people like him the blueprint how to get to No. 1, if you're not a bomber. How often do you hear that, and what is your reaction to what I would imagine is a great compliment.

LUKE DONALD: I hear it now and again. I don't hear it too often. But you know, I think not many people would have ever thought that a golfer like me in this day and age would have ever been able to get to No. 1 in the world.

But once I did and I stayed there for a pretty good period of time, obviously I think people took notice, and looked into why, how I did it, and what were kind of my secrets of getting there.

Obviously I just played to my strengths. I practiced hard the things I knew I was good at, and focused not just on trying to hit the ball further but just trying to improve every part of my game just a little bit.

Q. Following that up, power, that's the sexy thing in golf right now, but how important was your developing that short game in going from a good player to No. 1 in the world?

LUKE DONALD: I think it happened after my wrist surgery in 2008. I think a lot of that wrist surgery, a lot of the breakdown in my wrist obviously came from trying to hit the ball too hard, getting in positions that was putting stress on that wrist. I wasn't doing it the right way.

You know, when I had to start practicing again after that wrist surgery, all I could do was putt for a while and then I could chip and work my way up through the golf clubs. That's a good way to practice. I firmly believe that scoring happens from the hole back to the tee. I'm kind of a proven example of that.

And ever since that period, it was kind of a wake‑up call for me that I just needed to really concentrate on what I could control. I don't think I have that body, the athletic demeanor, where I'm going to be able to hit it 300 yards. There's no magic thing or driver that's just going to give me that extra yardage. I just have to keep improving the things that I can control.

Q. Can you talk about your friendship with Michael Jordan and with him turning 50 this weekend, and all of these Top‑50 lists, how did your friendship develop, and what is your favorite moment of his career?

LUKE DONALD: I've known Michael for quite a few years. We met through golf in Chicago and obviously the last couple of years, we've become closer. We live very close to each other now in Florida and play some golf together. His fiancée and my wife are good friends and we hang out a bit.

It's great just to be around someone that was arguably the greatest of all time in his sport. Just to see how he reacts, his demeanor, see his attitude towards things.  It's been nice just to spend a little bit of time with him.

Q. Do you have a favorite moment of his career that comes to mind for you?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I came to Northwestern in '97. I think a lot of his success was a little bit before that. He was kind of coming towards the end of his career then. I remember watching many games during the NBA Finals, just even back in England, and he was the best. He was clutch in every situation.

Q. The conversations you have had with MJ about the mental approach to sport, has that something that's happened recently or in multiple occasions in the past?

LUKE DONALD: I think in no way am I working with Michael at all (laughter). We literally are just friends. I try to pick up things from just watching him. I ask him some questions and he gives me answers sometimes. Certainly it's not like a working relationship. It's just nice to have access to someone that was that great at his sport.

Q. How many strokes to you spot him?

LUKE DONALD: I usually give him six a side and that's usually not enough for him (smiling).

Q. Any particular insight he's given you that's helped on the golf course?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, again most things he's said is play with what you can control. Don't worry about trying to hit the ball far. You're one of the best short game players; just concentrate on that. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Q. You said there's no magic driver that's going to turn you into a bomber. How much do you worry that golfers might seek some kind of magic potion to achieve that?

LUKE DONALD: Are you talking about drugs?

Q. Yes.

LUKE DONALD: I don't know. I can't speak for anyone else. I've never even thought about doing any of that stuff. For me, you know, it's about working hard with what you have and going out there and performing as hard as you can. You know, there's no quick fix for anything. It's just putting in the time and putting in the effort.

Q. As Karen said, Brandt has talked pretty openly about wanting to be No. 1. I don't remember you necessarily being that open about it; maybe you were. But was it one of those things where you were working, working, working, and all of a sudden you were there? How did it feel when you got there?

LUKE DONALD: It wasn't really something I thought about. Tiger, you know, for most of my professional career was so far ahead that no one thought he would ever be caught.

You know, obviously things happened and when I won the Match Play in 2011, I suddenly jumped from 7 or 8 to 3 in the world. At that point, then you start thinking, wow, I've only got a couple of spots to go, I can get there, and then it became a focus. And I think it was a good focus. It made me have a different goal to attain. It was something that I probably had not thought about before.

Obviously I had a few chances to get there and didn't quite make it. I lost to Brandt in a playoff at Hilton Head which would have got me to No. 1 and there was another situation where I just narrowly missed out.

But I finally did it by winning at Wentworth in the BMW, beating Lee Westwood in a playoff, and, you know, no greater feeling than knowing that your best golf is good enough to get to No. 1 in the sport; to say you're No. 1 in the world is a pretty amazing feeling, and I enjoyed being there.

Q. I know you use social media a lot, last night you used the hashtag, #moregreenstomorrow. Do you have a hashtag today?

LUKE DONALD: I'll go back to my usual, #keepgettingbetter. I'll keep pressing on. The guys are pretty good out here. You can't let up for a minute. You have to keep making birdies.

LAURA HILL: Thanks a bunch, good luck this weekend. 

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