What they said: Luke DonaldMay 30, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: the Memorial Tournament transcript archive
LAURA HILL: We'd like to welcome Luke Donald to the interview room, coming off of a great win last week, back to No.1 in the world. Maybe just talk about the momentum coming here to the Memorial Tournament. I think you had a top 10 last year, a seventh place, just coming off of that win and coming into this week.
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I mean, after a bit of a slow start to the year, obviously it's starting to pick up, starting to find the similar form that I found last year. Wentworth obviously being a kind place to me, I played very well there since the redesign, and happy with the way my game is progressing. I feel like it was a big step for me to go into Sunday with the lead and play like I did on the back nine, hitting a lot of quality shots off the tee and into the greens and obviously holing a few putts, as well.
I feel like my game is in a good spot, and excited about this week. It's a good field and a great tournament.
Q. Can you talk about the first time that you met Jack, where it was and what was going through your mind the first time that you met Jack??
LUKE DONALD: The first time, um, well, the first real time was probably 2003, '04, somewhere around that time. I was ambassador for RBS, as was Jack Nicklaus, and we did a few company days together and obviously got to meet him through that.
Yeah, obviously Jack has a great aura about him. His record speaks for itself. What he's done for the game of golf is pretty special, and I think it's a nice tip of the cap this week just looking at the field. I mean, obviously a great field assembled this week in honor of paying a little bit of a tribute to Jack.
Q. Did you not talk to him-- in my mind's eye I can see you standing behind the 18th green at Bear Lakes the same year his kid was there and he was probably 20 feet away from you.
LUKE DONALD: I think I was so excited to have my TOUR card I can't remember anything. I remember seeing him there. I remember Gary was playing. I probably met him before RBS, but that was kind of the first time that I got a little bit of one-on-one time with him.
Q. What was the best part of last week for you??
LUKE DONALD: Doing a few things I hadn't done, going to an event and defending. I've never done that before. Obviously getting back to No.1, I've done that a couple times now (laughter), but I was just really proud of the way I handled myself on Sunday, I suppose. I felt some nerves. It's always tougher leading going into Sunday, or I think it is. But just to play that back nine 3-under and just play a lot of solid shots and not get really out of position, really be in control of my golf ball under the pressure is something that I walked away really feeling good about that.
Q. Jack was in earlier talking about how fast the golf course is right now compared to past years because they haven't had any rain here in quite a while--
LUKE DONALD: I think that'll change this week.
Q. But from what you saw today, and I don't know if you played it yesterday or not, but how does it compare to the previous years you've played here??
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, last year it played faster towards the end of the week. I think the course is in good shape right now. The fairways have some run in them, they're not overly fast, but they're generous enough where you think you can afford to have these fairways quite firm.
The greens are-- again, there's one pretty good bounce at the beginning but then it'll stop. But I think overall the course is in a good place right now. It's going to-- that's going to be the hardest thing for me coming from Wentworth. The greens were significantly slower with a lot less break. And just playing today in the morning, you know, it's a whole different adjustment on the greens. The ball was just breaking so much more. You really have to feed the ball in from the high side, and that's going to be a little bit of adjustment. I'll do a bunch of work on the putting green when I'm done here.
Q. I'm just curious, would you be in favor of, say, rolling back the ball 10 percent? Do you think guys hit it too far, golf courses are too big, fans can't relate to the game many of you play?
LUKE DONALD: Not necessarily. You know, I think I'm a good proponent to say that you don't have to hit it that far to be successful. I think there is still an art to this game, and I think I've kind of proven that a little bit over the last year that you-- the guy who chips and putts the best most weeks is going to come out on top, no matter what kind of golf course.
I think if the courses are set up the right way, then I think where the ball is right now is okay. It doesn't obviously need to go any further because it is having an adverse effect on the lot of architects and the way the courses were meant to be played. But ultimately putting and chipping is still very important in winning golf tournaments.
Q. So many players talk about this tournament being kind of a cut above, and I don't know if that's the way you're treated, the course, Jack's input, but how badly would you like to-- how interested are you in winning here, and what would that mean??
LUKE DONALD: Well, I'm always interested in winning, no matter where it is. But this is a special place. I think every golfer would want this on their resumé of victories. It's a special tournament with a great field. I think you always want to go to tournaments that have strong fields. That's a little bit how I set my schedule. You want to play against the best players and beat them.
Obviously having Jack Nicklaus's name associated with it makes it a little bit more special.
Q. Can you talk about obviously this year's honoree is Tom Watson and you got to play with Tom and Jack in Jack's last British Open. Do you have a story from that day, what that was like to play with those two guys??
LUKE DONALD: Well, it was an amazing experience for me. I'm not sure if many of you know this, but I was given the opportunity to back out. It was through RBS, I think, that I got in that partnership, having a strong relationship with the Open.
Anyway, there was some discussion with if you didn't really want that pairing I think we could move it around. I thought about it quickly, and I thought, no, there's no way. This is going to be a great opportunity for me, something that I'll always remember, and it was fun. I mean, the last-- the second round on Friday, just coming down the last few holes, there wasn't a window that wasn't full of people watching Jack and of course Tom play.
There was one funny story actually. It was quite a nice hot day that day. You obviously know that Tom and I are both Ralph Lauren wearers. We wear Ralph Lauren. And we happened to be wearing the same shirt on Friday, and he kept his sweater on the whole day because he wanted to not make the sponsors look bad, and I thought that was pretty classy of him, to be honest with you. It was kind of warm out there for Scotland.
Going back to just playing with those two, it was an amazing experience. It kind of almost taught me something, the fact that Jack was able to will that putt in on the last in such a tremendous style. He still had that ability to make the shots when he needed to. It was fun being a part of that little-- a little part of that history.
Q. I'm just curious your thoughts about Olympic. I'm guessing you've not been there??
LUKE DONALD: Not been there. I'm going to go earlier next week.
Q. Given the relatively easy scoring conditions last year at Congressional, not saying it was easy, but by U.S. Open standards it certainly seemed to be, do you think they're going to go the other way this time and make it considerably harder, or do you think that they won't look at it that way, that the venue takes care of itself??
LUKE DONALD: Well, obviously what Rory did last year was pretty special. Outside of Rory's score, it wasn't too far off a regular U.S. Open. You know, obviously the weather had an effect on the score. It played soft. And he had one of those weeks where everything was going great.
I think the course kind of usually sorts out the score itself in a way, and the conditions. I saw a little bit on The Golf Channel last night, just to kind of get a feel for what the course is like, and it looked pretty tough. Really long rough and greens that were quite slopy.
I'm sure the USGA do not want something that low, but I'm not sure if they'll go adversely the other way. I think they'll just make it the usual tough setup.
Q. Does the U.S. Open seem like the one that would be-- or the Masters with your putting stroke, I guess, would be first if you would logically line up the majors? Do you think the U.S. Open because of your accuracy and ability to save par and keep the damage to a minimum because you just don't make bogeys?
LUKE DONALD: Well, pars win U.S. Opens, that's the phrase, and I suppose that's usually a strength of mine. I think I'm going to have to play pretty solidly off the tee. I think in the past that has been a slight weakness. I feel like in the last couple years that's really improved a lot, and that's kind of why I was really happy with myself on Sunday. There's some quite tough tee shots coming down the stretch at Wentworth, and I hit a lot of good, solid shots. That'll be a key for me at the U.S. Open.
Q. Kind of following up, Wentworth is unusual in that you've got those closing par-5s right at the back end, and presumably certain things could happen if the guy hits the hero shot at the right time. We've got two par-5s at the U.S. Open, 16 and 17, only two. What do you suppose that does for the drama in theory, having that at the back end??
LUKE DONALD: It's hard for me to say because I haven't seen the holes yet. I believe one is unreachable for all of us.
LUKE DONALD: But par-5s do offer opportunities for birdies. So I mean, I guess a two- or three-shot lead might not be as safe as some other years. That's all I can think of.
Q. At Wentworth last week you were talking about developing more of a swagger in your game. Was that one of the reasons you started working with Dave Alred??
LUKE DONALD: Not really, not for a swagger, just to be more successful and win more tournaments. I think when I had my wrist injury in 2008, it gave me a chance to kind of reevaluate what I needed to do and make some changes and bring a few new people to my team, and Dave was one of those, just a different approach. He's not-- he would never consider himself a psychologist, but he looks at how I practice, and it's just a different set of eyes looking at me and figuring out ways to make me a better player.
One of his ways is he's very much into having good posture, get out there, shoulders back, head high, and not give into any-- no sulking, I suppose. And I think that's helped me. Good body posture can make you feel a little bit better about yourself.
Q. Is he still involved in rugby??
LUKE DONALD: He coaches a few individual players, yes.
Q. How much experience do you have with Royal Lytham??
LUKE DONALD: Slightly more than Olympic but not a lot. I haven't played it as a professional. I tried to qualify there in 2001 as an amateur and didn't make it. But I have played there as an amateur before that. Last time I played would have been 14, 15 years ago.
Q. What about Kiawah??
LUKE DONALD: I haven't played there, either.
Q. Good year, huh??
LUKE DONALD: What's next year?
Q. Oak Hill, Merion--
LUKE DONALD: I haven't done Merion.
Q. I'd like to ask you about a couple of holes on the back nine. The 12th hole, could you describe your club selection based on wind and hole locations??
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, 12th is kind of the signature par-3 out here, and you really have to pick the right club. It's a little bit of an elevated tee to a green that's really sectioned off in two parts. The wind swirls quite a bit up there. You've got to be very solid about your club selection. Today was into the wind a little bit, hit a smooth 6-iron. I don't think anyone will hit much more than a 6-iron unless the wind really picks up. But prevailing wind slightly into. But it'll be somewhere between a 6- and 8-iron.
Q. And the 15th hole, how do you attack it and what's your strategy??
LUKE DONALD: The par-5?
Q. The last par-5.
LUKE DONALD: Not too much strategy. Strategy is to really get the ball in the fairway off the tee. It is reachable. It does play into the wind again. Today I reached with a driver and a 3-wood. Again, the key is to try and get the ball in the fairway, and from there most people will have a chance at getting on the green. It's a green that slopes from left to right, and the bad miss, I suppose, is left. You have a fast chip down the hill.
Q. Curious whether you saw any of the newspapers or whatever when you were over there and what the reaction was to Rory missing two cuts in a row and whether there was any hyperventilating going on, overreaction.
LUKE DONALD: From Rory or from you guys?
Q. Well, I meant more those guys, that side.
LUKE DONALD: Well, I think Rory obviously talked about it, that he maybe took his eye off the ball he said. I remember when I was 23 and had an attractive girlfriend, I would take my eye off the ball sometimes, as well. You can't blame the kid. But he's obviously realized that, and it looks like he's trying to focus on practicing a little bit harder and getting back to what he does.
It's a tough game, this game. Certainly for me, from a personal standpoint, if I don't put the work in, I'm not going to get the results. I guess you can only-- talent can only take you so far, and Rory sounds like he's kind of got to that point where everything has been pretty easy up until this point, and he's come into a little bit of a bad run of form, which this game does that to you. It's a fickle game, and it's tough. You've just got to work through it.
Q. Is it tough for you to find time with the kids??
LUKE DONALD: Well, I think it's made me a better practicer. I do feel like I want to spend more time with my kids, but it makes me-- every time I go to the range, I have a bit more of a plan now, so I can be a little bit more efficient with my practice. I still work very hard, but I'm able to gouge out some time for my kids, as well.
LAURA HILL: Luke, thanks for spending some time with us. Best of luck this week.