Donald lauds city of sport
Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States of America, but it might just be the most sports-mad.
The sporting résumé boasted by the Illinois capital is, to say the least, impressive.
In short, Chicago has within its metropolis: two Major League Baseball teams in the Cubs and the White Sox – making it the only city to have more than one MLB franchise since the American League was launched in 1901; one of only two remaining founding members of the National Football League(NFL) in the Bears; possibly the world’s most famous National Basketball Association (NBA) outfit in the Bulls; plus four-time Stanley Cup Champions – and one of the original six teams of the National Hockey League (NHL) – the Blackhawks.
Chicago, the diamond of the American Midwest, and its 2.7 million residents simply imbibe their sport.
And come September 28, a new chapter will be penned in its already storied and illustrious sporting history as The 2012 Ryder Cup takes to Medinah Country Club in the western suburbs of the great city as Europe and the United States go head to head once again in the 39th edition of the biennial contest.
For World Number Two Luke Donald, an Englishman born and raised, his fourth Ryder Cup appearance – and second on American soil after his debut in 2004 – will unusually represent somewhat of a home fixture despite its Stateside setting.
Donald will celebrate 15 years of association with ‘The Windy City’ when he tees it up on Medinah’s No. 3 Course come the end of September, having first moved there to take up a golf scholarship at Northwestern University – on the outskirts of Chicago – in 1997, where he also learned a love for art theory and practice.
Now 34 years old, and having established himself as one of the foremost golfers of his generation since his college days, Donald has settled with his wife and native Chicagoan Diane in a suburb just north of the city having made Chicago his adopted hometown in which to raise their two young daughters, Elle and Sophia.
There is no doubt that Donald feels an affinity with the area; he identifies with its sporting ethos and history, its fine wines and restaurants, its world-class art galleries and above all its people.
“Chicago will put on a great, great show for The Ryder Cup,” said Donald, who made history last year by becoming the first player to top both the US and European money lists in the same season.
“It’s one of the great American sporting cities and the fans there will be loud and raucous and they will really get behind the American Team.
“And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The atmosphere will be amazing because they just love their sport in Chicago and hopefully both teams can put on a show and give them something to cheer.”
Having qualified for his fourth foray into The Ryder Cup via a first place finish in the World Points List following a remarkable year, Donald believes having a presence of his new-home faithful in attendance at Medinah could help inspire his performance.
“From a personal point of view I’m hoping that there will be a few friendly faces cheering me on in my home town,” he continued. “I would love to make the rest of the crowds pretty quiet: that’s what we will all be going there to try to do.”
Donald’s Ryder Cup record is nothing short of astonishing. In his three previous appearances in 2004, 2006 and 2010 he has played 11 matches, won eight, halved one and lost just twice.
Even more impressive, when you delve a little deeper into the numbers, is Donald’s record in the foursomes format, in which the Hemel Hempstead born man has won six times in six ties – including a stunning 6&5 destruction of Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods alongside compatriot Lee Westwood in 2010.
Indeed, Donald finished joint top scorer with countryman Ian Poulter in the dramatic European triumph at Celtic Manor two years ago, as both men contributed a valuable three points each in the narrow 14½-13½ thriller.
But even Donald’s stellar record in the competition pales when held up against the man who will lead the European line in 2012, as José María Olazábal – an eight-time veteran of The Ryder Cup – captains Donald and co. in Illinois, and the Englishman suggests the Spaniard is suited perfectly to the challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to playing under José,” Donald said. “I think he’ll be a great Captain because he’s so passionate about The Ryder Cup and it has been a huge part of his career.
“I would expect him to be really involved with the players – maybe not as energetic as Seve! – but he will bring so much passion to the role and I think that will rub off on the Team.
“We’ve all spoken about it a few times and he’ll leave no stone unturned in his role – all the t’s will be crossed and the i’s will be dotted so he’ll give his players the best chance to perform and try to keep that trophy.”
But while Donald recognises the crucial significance of Olazábal's contribution, he also stresses that the responsibility to deliver truly lies with him and his fellow team members once they step onto what is always a fearsome first tee.
“The Captain is obviously a huge role but he can only prepare the team as best he can. Once the golf starts then it’s all on the players,” Donald said.
“I’ve played in three Ryder Cups under very different Captains and I’ve been lucky enough to win them all, and I think that shows that it comes down to how we perform at the end of the day.”
With Donald in the team, however, there has been very little luck about it.
On this, the biggest of stages, a calm and considered Donald has consistently performed and it would come as no surprise were he to add to his hoard of vital Ryder Cup points this time around at Medinah.
A lot will be demanded of Donald in Chicago, but in ‘The City of Big Shoulders’, Donald’s 5ft 9inch frame will once again embrace and bear the burden of expectation.
With his typical measure and method Donald will accept it, welcome it and revel in it.