An Interview With: LUKE DONALD
KELLY ELBIN: Making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance for Europe, Luke Donald joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Luke has a career Ryder Cup record of 8 2 1, including a record of 6 0 0 in foursomes, which will be the first format Friday morning.
Luke, welcome to Medinah. Sort of home territory for you in way, isn't it?
LUKE DONALD: It is. It's a unique situation for me. Obviously I make my home here, 25 miles just north of here. Been living here for 15 years. But very unique. I'll be the only guy on both teams that is more familiar with this town than probably anyone.
Yeah, hopefully I can garner a little bit of the support from the crowd because of that and turn that into a slight advantage for Team Europe, but it is a unique experience for me.
KELLY ELBIN: How many times roughly do you think you've played Medinah, and have you been able to pass along some thoughts particularly to players that have never played here before?
LUKE DONALD: Well I don't play here consistently when I am home. I play once or twice a year. I obviously played the PGA here in 2006, and I played here a couple times in the last few weeks, just to get a feel for the golf course.
But I think the golf course is pretty much in front of you. There's not too many tricks to it. It's about looking at the greens and figuring out where to putt the ball in the right positions, because the greens are fast and slopey, and I think that's the key to this golf course if you want to make a lot of birdies is just putting it in the right place.
The guys are fully aware of that and taking note during their practice rounds.
KELLY ELBIN: Luke tied for third in the PGA Championship here in 2006.
Q. As you mentioned, you've lived here for 15 years. José Maria was saying the other day that he was talking about the differences of the days of yore when players from Europe all played in Europe and they came over here a few times a year and didn't know our courses very well and our fans didn't know them very well and it is so different now; so many of you guys living over here and playing top tier golf and getting on TV in the States regularly, you're known. Do you think in a way on the U.S. side the home field advantage is a little bit neutralized by that because of the fact that you are so well known here and the fact that you know our golf courses so well?
LUKE DONALD: I would say that the game has certainly changed in the last 10 or 15 years. We play more of a global schedule now. We play all over the world. A lot of the European players play on the U.S. Tour and we are very familiar with the golf setups, and it's very hard to set up a golf course to favor one team or the other.
So we are very familiar and our faces are familiar to the crowd. The crowd will still ultimately be very pro American Team and we expect that. I've always said this, the biggest advantage in a Ryder Cup is having that home support, the cheering, the loud chants, the crowd getting behind your team.
That's always going to be the tougher thing. But in terms of the course, the setup, yeah, it's very hard to favor one team.
Q. Just as a follow up to that, you were educated here and your family is here; you live here. Is there a small part of you that feels American?
LUKE DONALD: I always consider myself British through and through. I've obviously reaped the benefits of going through the college system over here, really helped me with my golf, and I enjoy living here and I feel very comfortable here, but I don't think that changes how you feel about where you grew up. And I grew up my first 19 years in England and still have a very close relationship with that country, with my country. I still have a lot of family that are there and I visit there regularly.
But you know, I wouldn't say I consider myself American. I've tried to stay true to where I was brought up.
Q. As a fellow Northwestern grad, I grew up in Illinois; how the heck did you end up at Northwestern?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I knew I wanted to come to college, to the U.S., and I was heavily recruited by Stanford. Things didn't work out and I didn't get into the school there. But the coach there, a guy called Wally Goodwin, coached at Stanford for a while, coached Tiger when he was there, was a former coach at Northwestern. Once I didn't get into Stanford, he pointed me towards Northwestern campus. I came for a visit and just really liked what I saw, and that's how I came here really. That's the short story.
Q. Because you've lived here such a long time, I presume you've been to quite a few sporting fixtures here and the various sports franchises here. How would you characterize the Chicago sports fan?
LUKE DONALD: Well, the thing that appeals to me about Chicago is that the people are very friendly. They are very much into their sports and they get into it and they get raucous and they get loud.
From what I've seen, they are respectful fans, and they certainly enjoy it. They get up for it. They are going to be loud. They are going to be raucous, as I said. But I think they will do it in a good spirit.
Q. Obviously when you come here 15 years ago, you don't think you're going to be an adopted Chicagoan at one point; what specifically about Chicago, besides obviously finding your wife here, has compelled you to stay, and what do you like so much about it?
LUKE DONALD: Well, many things. I've been fortunate to travel around most of America and visit most of the big cities and some of the smaller ones, and I just always get drawn back to Chicago. Again, I feel like the people are very welcoming and friendly. I just love the culture of Chicago. It offers so much. It is a sporting town, as well, which appeals to me.
I think that the city uses the lake in a great way. You feel like you're almost on a sea or an ocean. Great restaurants, great museums. Obviously I met my wife here; my coach lives here. I have a good firm base of friends and family that live here, and it just feels very comfortable and easy to live, a place that I've come to really enjoy.
Q. A little earlier this morning, I asked Sergio about the influence of captains on the various Ryder Cup teams that he's been a part of and their different styles. His answer was that, well, captains make you comfortable, but really it's about the players. I didn't entirely believe him. Could I ask him about your experience of what a captain can do for a Ryder Cup Team?
LUKE DONALD: Well, this is my fourth Ryder Cup, and I've played under three very different captains so far. I've played with Bernhard Langer, 2004, who was the most meticulous, detail oriented captain that I played under.
I played under Ian Woosnam, more of a laissez faire, let things happen and let's just go out and play.
Monty was somewhere in between. We won all three of them with very different personalities.
So I suppose Sergio saying, what it really comes down to is the players have to play well on the day. The captains can only do so much. They can try and make sure they get the pairings correct, the order of the pairings, making you feel comfortable.
But in the end, you just have to go out and play your best, and you've got to putt well. That's what wins Ryder Cups.
Q. Your 'Cats are off to a great start this year, 4 0. Obviously you're going to be a little bit tied up on Saturday with their Big Ten opener. Are you going to be checking the cell phone at all maybe to get your score updates?
LUKE DONALD: What, mid round? (Laughing.)
Very proud of Northwestern. They have got a great chance. The Big Ten is probably not as strong as it could be this year, and we have a good opportunity to maybe go far. I think we are playing Indiana, right, Saturday?
I know there's been talk of us maybe going 6 0,7 0 to start the season, which would be great for Northwestern, and as an alum, I'm always keeping an eye on things.
Q. You have a degree in art theory from Northwestern, as well. Had you not gone on to become one of the greatest golfers in the world, what exactly does one do with a degree in art theory?
LUKE DONALD: How to tell? I don't think yeah, I think I'd be probably living in a different suburb than I am now, let put it that way. (Laughter.)
Q. Can you talk about your partnership with Lee Westwood? You looked in pretty formidable action yesterday. Obviously the two of you are hotly tipped to be paired together on the opening day.
LUKE DONALD: I've played with Lee, we played foursomes two years ago and we paired obviously very well. We had a very successful match against Tiger and Stricker. Yeah, I think Lee and I get along very well. That's always important in partnerships.
It's always pleasing when you're able to take cash out of Poulter's wallet; a few moths fell out at the same time, but it was fun. We both played well. We made a bunch of birdies together, and again, who knows if we'll play together, but we certainly have a good chemistry between us.
Q. Just as a follow up to that, how do your personalities mesh, you and Lee? What do you have in common? What's different about you that works together?
LUKE DONALD: Well, different games obviously. Lee is great off the tee. He hits it long and straight. I think his long game, my short game, a lot of people have spoken about that in the media before; that you put the two together, we could have a few more than zero majors between us. I think we obviously complement each other.
Lee is a personality on a golf course, he's just very easy going. Nothing bothers him. He exudes a lot of confidence, especially this week, and that rubs off well on me.
Q. If you could have a day away from the golf practice and team rooms and dinners and you could show your 11 teammates around the city, where would you be taking them?
LUKE DONALD: Again, I would probably start off at Wrigley. We'd probably go down to Lincoln Park if we weren't playing golf the next day, obviously have a few beers in Lincoln Park and then catch a Cubs game and then maybe go down to Michigan Avenue to check out some of the sights down there, Buckingham Fountain, the bean (at Millennium Park). Just take in the city, really.
My wife already did that to some of the fellow wives yesterday, and from what I hear, everyone's really enjoying the city.
Q. I think I'm right in saying that you and Davis have the same sponsor in Polo, Ralph Lauren?
LUKE DONALD: Yes.
Q. So you've hung out with him quite a few times; can you give some insight into what he's like and what you expect him to be like as a captain?
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, we certainly haven't hung out as much in the last few years. I wear the RLX brand and he wears the Ralph Polo brand, so we haven't done too many days in the last four or five years, but I've certainly spent some time with Davis. You know, just a down to earth, great guy. Obviously a great record in golf as an individual, and a pretty good Ryder Cup record, if I remember. He certainly won a few points that meant something.
You know, outside of that, I'm not sure what his philosophy will be, but I'm sure he'll he just seems like he's going to be fully prepared and ready. You know, he's obviously tried to tweak the golf course a little bit. You just get the feeling that he's thinking through things pretty well, and he won't leave anything to chance.
KELLY ELBIN: Luke Donald of Europe, thank you very much.
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