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An interview with Luke Donald

September 14, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Luke Donald, ladies and gentlemen, making his first Ryder Cup appearance here at Oakland Hills for the 35th Ryder Cup Matches. Luke, some opening comments. We'll take some questions afterward.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I mean, I played, just finished playing 18 today and really enjoyed the course. I thought it was in great shape. It's set up very well for a Ryder Cup and just very much looking forward to the rest of this week.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. What particularly impressed you about the setup?

LUKE DONALD: I think it's set up very fairly right now. When I first got here I thought the course was going to be very tight. There are a few tight holes out there, but in general there's a decent amount of room on the fairways. The greens obviously are going to be a big key this week. They are very, very severely sloped. But saying that right now, they are reasonably softish and not too fast, so they are very manageable. But I just thought the course, you know, it wasn't huge rough. The rough is playable. I hit it in the rough a few times and still was able to get to the green. No, it will make for some fun golf. I think there will be some birdies out there.

Q. What's your opinion of the last three to four holes and can you envision yourself, how you'll play those if it's a tight match on a Sunday?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, 15 is one of the shorter par 4s. It's a little bit of a tricky drive. I'm not exactly sure what I'll do there at the moment. There's a bunker about 255 to 260-yard carry. It's a 3-wood hole, but it brings the bunker into play if you hit 3-wood. Driver is a little bit too much club there. If you hit it to the right you'll go through the fairway and behind a tree. So probably just a 3-wood and a pitching wedge, sand wedge to a green that's one of the flatter ones. 16, I guess is the signature hole here. Again if it's downwind you're probably just hitting 2-iron off the tee, and a eight or 9-iron to it. It's a very small green, protected by water. 17 was a tough par 3 today. It was playing quite long up the hill. It was a good 3-iron to a pretty severe green with a very tough pin on the right-hand side. And then 18 is probably the hardest hole on the course. It's a pretty tight tee shot. Downwind some of the players will have to hit 3-wood even though it's 495 yards because you can reach a bunker that's just over 300 yards out. And then you're going straight up the hill to a green that is very sloped, severely sloped from back to front, and you're going in with anything from a long iron to a mid-iron. But 18 is going to be a tough one.

Q. Bernhard wanted you out today in threes to just get used to playing the course. Tomorrow if you are looking at potential pairings, will that change your thinking as to how you practice tomorrow?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I don't believe we'll be in threesomes tomorrow. I believe we're going to be playing some foursomes and four-balls tomorrow. I'm not exactly sure. But I think just today we played in threesomes just because for most of us it was the first look at the course, we wanted to still have a good look at it but we didn't want to take forever out there, so we played in threesomes.

Q. Given the choice, would you like to be paired with one of the old sages or do you fancy pairing up again with Paul Casey?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, we haven't talked about pairings yet. To be honest, I think it doesn't matter for me. I mean, I would think me and Paul would be a good partnership. We've had success in the past and when you're confident with a pairing, it's probably good to stick with one. But, you know, that's obviously up to Bernhard Langer. I'll be glad just to be playing in the foursomes and four-balls. We'll have to see what Bernhard, what kind of decisions he makes.

Q. A follow-up to that, you and Paul sort of went back and forth on being No. 1 ranked in the country as college players and you know each other pretty well. Can you speak to that friendship and also what it's like for the two of you to both be rookies at the same time here?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, me and Paul have kind of led a very similar career path. We both went to America. We were very good at university and we were pretty competitive in college. We were 1 and 2 probably best college players at one point in time. We played Walker Cup together in '99 and gelled very well winning both our matches quite comfortably. A couple of years when I was playing heavily over here, I didn't see much of Paul but the last couple of years, I've seen a lot more of him, and yeah, we're still good friends.

Q. I'm just curious what you guys did as a team last night and is the bonding process well underway?

LUKE DONALD: We just had a brief team meeting and then we had dinner with our partners, I guess you would say, girlfriends and wives, and pretty much it. We got all of our gear and our clothes and that kind of stuff. But it was a pretty mellow evening. We were mainly together for the evening, so I guess we were starting that team bonding, yeah.

Q. People are going to be anxious to see you guys play 6, especially if the tee box is pushed in a lot. How do you guys feel about it, players of your caliber, when you have a shot to go at it in one shot, does that excite you?

LUKE DONALD: I think it makes for fun match-play, absolutely. Padraig and myself had a go at that green from the up tee. I was just short and he got it on the green. So it might be, unless it's downwind it might be out of reach for me, but a lot of the players, especially the U.S. guys, could definitely reach that green. But saying that, it's a pretty narrow target to get through the bunkers and if you hit it in the bunkers and the pin is in the back, it's a very tricky bunker shot. It might even be an advantage to lay up short. It will make for a fun hole. If the wind is in the right direction, most of the players will hit driver there and go for it.

Q. Have you been told any stories by any of the veterans about nerves or given any advice by some of the veterans of this event?

LUKE DONALD: Not really. We all got in last night and we didn't really have that much time. We were pretty much just having a quiet dinner and most of us were pretty tired and went to bed early. But the next few days, maybe there will be some room for some stories.

Q. One of Peter McAvoy's more memorable comments was the only difference between home golf and away golf is the noise of the crowd. Do you hope that's true this week and have you found it to be true at the Walker Cup level?

LUKE DONALD: Well, obviously the home crowd is always going to support their home players more. That's just the way it goes. I'm just hoping the crowd this week is very partisan and player partisan and fair. Today we got a lot of claps walking on to the greens. [] I think we were welcomed quite well today. We felt like the crowd was very good to us. Hopefully that will carry on for the whole week. Obviously, the Americans are going to get more support and I think that's only natural.

Q. The myth is that the Europeans come together more efficiently as a team than the U.S. does. I know you can't speak to the U.S. Team part of it, but can you just talk about how a young European player kind of quickly gets into that team concept, what is that transition like, is it difficult, is it easy?

LUKE DONALD: It's pretty easy. I think the Europeans do seem to get on better just because of the way the European Tour is set up. I've had the pleasure of playing a few more events in Europe this year and I notice it quite significantly when I play it Europe. Usually there's one hotel where all of the players stay. They meet up at night and they go out to dinner. Through that, they seem to have better friendships. Just the way the U.S. tour is very spread out, there's a million different hotels that people stay at. A lot of players travel with their families. They don't spend as much time together off the course, and I think that's why the Europeans are a little bit more friendly with each other.

Q. Can you talk about playing for your country, or a continent and a host of countries, is there a sense that some of it is geared toward beating the Americans because we claim to be the best, we have the top golfers or some of the top golfers in the world?

LUKE DONALD: I don't really understand your question.

Q. How much of it is not so much playing for your country as it is playing to beat the Americans?

LUKE DONALD: Well, obviously we're here to win. You know, the last few Ryder Cups have been very close. There has not been much in it. It always comes down to a few putts here and there. But the Americans usually are stronger on paper just because they have a lot of higher-ranked players in the world. I guess that's incentive for us to play harder, to try and beat the Americans. But I think it will be a close match.

Q. So much has been made about Tiger Woods and his so-called slump. Can he be in a slump and is he the key to this American team?

LUKE DONALD: I don't think any one individual is ever a key to a Ryder Cup Team. I think it's always a team effort. But obviously if one player can inspire the rest, then that will obviously help. I'd like to be in his slump. But Tiger, he's probably, obviously, not happy with the way he's played this year. He's only won once. I'm sure he'll be looking to play well this week. He doesn't have a very good Ryder Cup record and I'm sure he'll be wanting to improve on that.

Q. What did you do with yourself last week and how did you get yourself prepared?

LUKE DONALD: I actually was in Chicago from Tuesday onwards of last week. I have a base there where I live when I play on the U.S. tour. I've just been practicing and playing pretty much like a usual week off, nothing too different. I'm trying to play on some courses that I thought were maybe similar to Oakland Hills. I played Medinah, another course where I'm a member at, North Shore Country Club, which are very tree lined, reasonably tight courses with very similar grasses. Just trying to work on my game.

JULIUS MASON: Luke Donald, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

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