Donald Takes Both Money Titles

Luke Donald started the season ninth in the world golf ranking. By the time 2011 ended, the 34-year-old Brit not only rose to No. 1 but his sustained excellence brought him the money titles on both the PGA Tour and European Tour.

In the U.S., Donald - a former All-America at Northwestern where he won the NCAA Men's Golf Championship in 1999 after beating the previous scoring record set by Tiger Woods - earned $6,683,214. In Europe, he took home a total of $7.11 million.

Donald capped his year the best way imaginable: by firing a pair of 6-under 66s to finish third - three strokes behind winner Alvaro Quiros - in the Dubai World Championship and sew up the European Tour's Race to Dubai title. To put an appropriate capper on his consistency and dominance this year, Donald carded 12 birdies and the rest pars over the weekend.

"The critics will always be there and they make me stronger, to be honest," Donald told the European Tour's website. "Every time someone says I can't do a thing it just makes me work harder."

Rory McIlroy was the only player who could catch Donald in the Race to Dubai. To do that, McIlroy needed to win the Dubai World Championship and Donald needed to finish out of the top nine.

But that didn't happen, and the 22-year-old Northern Irishman tipped his cap to Donald. "Luke deserves it. Basically every time he's teed it up, he's had a chance or he's finished in the top five or top 10. Mentally, you have to be so good just to keep grinding out the scores when you need to."

On Sunday after the dust settled and Donald became the first player in history to win both money titles, he met with reporters and discussed his outstanding finish in Dubai and nonpareil season.

MODERATOR: Well, it's a pleasure to welcome Luke Donald, the 2011 Race to Dubai champion. Luke, you're U.S. No. 1, European No. 1, world No. 1. It's downhill all the way from now on, isn't it.

LUKE DONALD: Probably.

MODERATOR: Just take us through your immediate emotions.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, it's funny to kind of sum up how I feel. You know, this is something I've wanted for the last few months, to try and win both money lists. Obviously with my come behind win at Disney, this really became possible. But yes, it's very strange, because I looked at the leaderboard on 13, and saw that Rory I couldn't see Rory's name on there, and the leaders were playing well, and at that point, I kind of knew that I had made history, and the last six holes were kind of surreal. The pressure went away. I was able to just enjoy myself, have a few smiles, and enjoy the walk. I guess that's what it's all about.

MODERATOR: And you very nearly won the tournament until Alvaro came up with that huge putt on the last.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, you know, again, the tournament would have been an extra bonus. I got what I came for, and that was to win the Race to Dubai and do the double and create history. Hats off to Alvaro. He played well down the stretch and making an eagle on the last is a pretty spectacular way to finish the event. I was pretty pleased with my three birdies, too.

Q. How useful in doing what you did in Disney, and doing what you needed to do here, will it be to you in going forward and trying to get that major?

LUKE DONALD: I think it's invaluable. Success breeds more success, and being able to feed off instances like this week, like Disney, like the BMW, any time you're doing well, you're able to feed off that and know that when the pressure is at the most, you're able to come up with the shots. I obviously did that. Obviously that's something that's missing from my resumé is a major. I feel like this year, I've done everything but win a major, and I'm excited about 2012. I'm excited to bring these memories, to bring these experiences to the Majors and hopefully that will help me and get me in contention and give myself a chance to get my first major.

Q. Do you think you'll improve next year, and if so, how? Where?

LUKE DONALD: Well, there's always ways to improve. I think that's the beauty of our sport, and life. You can always find ways to better yourself. You know, I'll continue to try and do that. I made pretty big leaps this year with my driving. My statistics in terms of hitting fairways and hitting greens were a lot better this year, but they certainly weren't the best of anyone. I can improve that. I can improve other statistics. I look very closely at the statistics and figure out where there are areas that I can improve. You know, I'll be working on that in the off season.

Q. Alvaro was just saying that he looks at what you've done this year and can only conclude you must feel great under pressure. Is that how you feel, and could you talk the process, how you got to this?

LUKE DONALD: There are times where I felt very comfortable under pressure and there are times where I felt quite nervous. But my golf really has not changed despite the different feelings. This week, I felt very nervous. You know, it showed in a couple tee shots perhaps. It showed that there's still improvements to be made in my swing. There's still a few flews that creep in now and again that cause some of those tee shots. But last three days, I didn't swing it my best. I didn't feel 100 per cent comfortable out there. But I was able to shoot 16 under par in three days and do what I needed to do. Those kind of experiences are invaluable going forward in terms of trying to win my first major. And you know, you learn a lot about yourself in these situations, and it's nice to know that despite feeling nervous, I was able to hit good shots.

Q. Going back to sort of the major question, if you like, while it obviously gives you great confidence going forward in that environment, does it bring with your achievements here ands fact that you're sort of No. 1 and going away as No. 1, does that bring with it added pressure, as well, because more and more people are going to be looking at you and asking the sort of questions I'm asking now.

LUKE DONALD: I think so. You know, just being No. 1 in the world brings expectation from everyone. It brings expectation from myself. This has been a great year, but I feel like there's ways to improve, and obviously one of those ways is to be a bit more consistent in the majors and give myself more opportunities and hopefully pick up a win. I think I've proven quite a few times that under pretty extreme pressure, I've been able to deal with it. Hopefully that will be the case in Majors, as well.

Q. So that kind of pressure doesn't make it harder?

LUKE DONALD: I think pressure makes it harder, but I've been able to deal with it pretty well. It doesn't make it easier, for sure. But you try and use pressure to your advantage in the fact that drawing off past experiences; as I said, I didn't really have my best the last three day, but I was able to shoot 16 under.

Q. Will your schedule next season be geared towards trying to repeat this accomplishment, or will there be a definite change of emphasis towards the major, do you think?

LUKE DONALD: My schedule will be very similar to this year. Not too much change. The only area that I felt like I maybe didn't manage quite so well in 2011 was at the U.S. Open. I felt like I was drained a little bit. I felt like I had played a little bit too much leading up to that. It was in relation to having strep throat and being a little under the weather, as well, didn't help. But I've looked at my schedule for next year, and there will be a little bit more time off before the Majors so I can feel like I'm extremely rested and ready to go for those events. But to be honest, my schedule will be very, very similar to this year. It will be a spread between both tours and now I've done it once; I'll be looking to try and do what I did this year again next year.

Q. Lee Westwood said that it's easier now than it's ever been to do a double because of more co sanctioned events. Given that, do you think that he's right? And also, do you think that in the future, we'll see more double acts?

LUKE DONALD: More co sanctioned events? Well, we have the majors and we have - what's more? In terms of the last few years or - I mean, I know Shanghai, HSBC, is that even co sanctioned? They don't even count the money on the U.S. there. I'm not exactly sure what Lee was trying to say there or mean, but for the last five or ten years, we've had four majors and three World events, and that's the only seven events that have counted on both tours.

MODERATOR: That's what he meant, events that counted on both money lists.

LUKE DONALD: And we've had those events for quite a while.

Q. If you just look back, can you point to one moment where things really changed for you?

LUKE DONALD: I suppose from a mental standpoint, probably the birth of my first child, Elle, February of 2010. You know, I think just having becoming a father changes you and it changed me in a very positive manner. I've said this before, I just felt like golf has always been very important to me, but maybe it was too important before I had children. Maybe I was a little bit too concentrated on it. My dad always told me to lead a balanced life and I think I did, but sometimes you can get a little bit too into something and it affects you if you don't succeed. With having a daughter, I was able to let go of some of those frustrating days at the office and know that I had a smiling, loving, healthy family at home. I think that's really helped me as a person and as a golfer. A few months later, I won in Madrid, and everything's kind of kicked off from there.

Q. A few years ago, the theory was that golf would be dominated by huge guys, muscular guys?

LUKE DONALD: (Pulling sleeves up, flexing biceps muscle).

Q. It's not that impressive. (Laughter). Wonder what you think of the theory of that; what you've achieved this year has redefined what it takes to dominate in golf, and what you thought about that.

LUKE DONALD: I'm sure there are golfers out there that have looked at my success and figured out that you don't need to hit it a hundred miles. Obviously 350 yards off the tee, it helps; one of Alvaro's biggest strengths, and I'm sure it helped him this week. There's definitely more to this game than hitting it far. I would certainly love to hit it further. I think it would make life a little easier, but I've got to stick with what I have and what my talents are. Certainly a good, proficient short game and good putting has proven in statistics, if you can do it, and you're going to have a decent year no matter what.

Q. Do you think you will have redefined the way that golf is played?

LUKE DONALD: I think people are taking notice of what I've done and how I've done it, and people will maybe change the way they approach practice, yes.

Q. Which major best suits your game and which one do you want to win most?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I've always said I'd love to win the Open Championship the most, just because I'm from there. I don't know if that's necessarily my favorite one to win. I actually feel the most comfortable around Augusta at the Masters. I've had some success there. I think the more times you play it, the more comfortable you feel. Every other major obviously moves around, but there, you get a little bit more of a feel for the course, because you're there every year, and it seems to produce very good winners because of that. And yeah, I suppose if I had to pick one that I was favored in, it would probably be Augusta.

Q. I fully appreciate what you've achieved, it's a pretty high benchmark this season, I just wonder if there's anything sort of extra historical or unique you would like to achieve in the rest of your career going forwards, if you thought of something or maybe heard of something in the clubhouse which you thought, oh, yeah, quite fancy that.

LUKE DONALD: I'm not going to be greedy. I'd love to win one major championship, but I guess winning the Grand Slam would be the ultimate thing, when it's done in one calendar year. It's certainly it's possible, but the chances are very slim. No one's ever done it. You know, that would be the ultimate goal, I suppose.

Q. The PGA Tour are going to announce their Player of the Year this week; can you conceive not being named Player of the Year? (Laughter).

LUKE DONALD: Well, the ballots did close last week. So they wouldn't have counted this event; not that they would have anyway. You know, I know I was on the list, so hopefully my fellow players make the right decision (smiling).

Q. You voted, did you?

LUKE DONALD: I voted for myself.

Q. Would you mind sharing with us what Christian said to you as you came out of the scorer's area?

LUKE DONALD: Just, "Well done, and would have made Dad really proud. Well done for doing it for Dad."

Q. I was going to ask about Christian. That was an important thing for you, to do, as well, in your pursuit of becoming as good as you can be.

LUKE DONALD: It was a tough thing for me to do. But sometimes change is good. And you know, I've said this before; that my brother and I, I think did pretty well to last eight years being a family. Everyone who has brothers and sisters, you know it can be tough at times. Chris has never had a jealous bone in his body. He's always wanted the best for me, and it was a tough split. But the relationship on the course was getting a little bit stale, and it was simple as that. It was affecting our relationship as brothers, and it was time for a change.

As soon as I mentioned it and spoke to him about it, he knew, as well. He knew that it was the right thing to do. You know, full credit to Chris, being a good caddie, he's gotten some good bags since then, and you know, he's going to have a pretty good career. But it was a necessary change for me, and it's helped. John has been great on the bag. It's been different, different personality. You know, he's done an excellent job. We've had a lot of success together, and it's been a worthwhile change.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.