Featured Golf News
Is this Luke Donald's Week?
Luke Donald has the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Ranking, but what the 33-year-old Brit doesn't have is a major title. Donald, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour with six more victories on the European Tour, is now 0-for-33 in Grand Slam events.
His best showing this year is a tie for fourth in the Masters. In the U.S. Open at Congressional, where Northern Ireland wunderkind Rory McIlroy roared to an eight-shot win, Donald finished 45th. And then in the British Open at Royal St. George's, which was won by another long-suffering heretofore major-less player, Darren Clarke, Donald missed the cut.
So Donald, a former NCAA champion at Northwestern, is looking to get that major monkey off his back this week in the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia.
On Tuesday, Donald met with the media and discussed his chances in Atlanta. He's coming off a good showing in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he closed with a 4-under 66 and finished tied with Rickie Fowler, four shots behind winner Adam Scott. Here's what Donald said about the PGA Championship.
MODERATOR: World No. 1 Luke Donald joining us at the 93rd PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. This will be Luke's eighth PGA Championship appearance. His best finish was a tie for third in 2006 at Medinah Country Club. Luke, three wins worldwide this year, tied for second last week at Bridgestone. Feel good about your chances coming into this season's final major?
LUKE DONALD: I played very well last week tee-to-green, especially. I think I led greens in regulation on a reasonably tight golf course, which all points to good stuff hopefully for this week. So excited to be here, and coming off a great week is always a bonus.
MODERATOR: You had a chance to play the back nine. Any impressions of the golf course.
LUKE DONALD: It's a good golf course. It's one of the best-conditioned golf courses I've seen. Very fast, slopey greens, which is going to be quite challenging, I think, if they get them any firmer and faster. It's going to play -- might be more like the U.S. Open than the U.S. Open was. It's pretty much in front of you. It's a modern layout, a long course. The last four holes are very challenging coming in. The greens, as I said, they are firm, but if you're in the fairway, you can hold them. But out of position it's going to be quite tricky.
Q. Your thoughts on a 265-yard par-3?
LUKE DONALD: I'm never a big fan of long par-3s. I think some of the world's greatest par-3s are very short. The 7th at Pebble, 12th at Augusta, Postage Stamp, you can keep naming quite a few that are short and at the same time quite tricky. You know, today off the back tee, I hit a rescue. Just seems like you take a little bit of the skill out of it when it's that long a hole. But it is the same for everyone, and I'm going to have to learn to try and love it for this week. There's not too many really long par 3s that are very memorable that I can think of, the only one really being Cypress, 16th hole. Again, I've never really been a fan of long par 3s. I think par 3s should be a little bit more shorter and more interesting.
Q. You had a good shot there today?
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, it was pretty good, to the middle of the green. It's downhill, and warm conditions and the wind was behind me, so it's not playing 260. It's playing 35 yards shorter than that.
Q. Lee was just in saying that he's got a philosophy this week where he's just not going to care; all of the pressure he's put on himself for majors. Can you understand that, and this year, have you done that a little bit, too, if you see what I mean?
LUKE DONALD: I definitely understand it. You know, majors are in this day and age made out to be the biggest deal. People put a lot of pressure on the guys who haven't won, like myself and Lee and Adam and whoever else it might be, there's pressure to win them. Sometimes you can go to these events and just try too hard. Just a little bit like my putting last week. The first two days, I was working on a few things, and just kept grinding on it, and you know, there's just too much concentration when I was over the ball and less focus on hitting it on the right line and holing the putt. I putted a lot better the third day through less thoughts and less trying, and sometimes that's a good way to go about it.
Q. Have you been guilty of that in majors, maybe trying too hard?
LUKE DONALD: For sure. There's more pressure. You feel a little bit more uptight, and sometimes it's harder to let it go and just kind of play the way you know how to play. But it's very hard. There's a hard balance between not trying and obviously putting in some effort to give it your best. It's a fine line.
Q. With so many different winners of major championships in the last few years, do you think the game is better off without one dominant player that everybody is chasing and you've got kind of a wide-open field, or is it better to have the one player that everyone is going after?
LUKE DONALD: I think the fans always enjoy, you know, the hero, the one player that does dominate that they can cheer for, and I think Tiger was that person, obviously. They do enjoy that, but there are obviously people out there that also like to see a bit more variance and a variety; that other people do have a chance to win. And that's been the case the last two or three years, where it has been very wide open. There's been a lot of shuffling around in the World Golf Rankings, and I'm sure that's good for the sport, as well. I'm not sure which is better. I'd probably sway with one person dominating. I think it brings a little bit more focus to the sport.
Q. From a player perspective, does it matter?
LUKE DONALD: It doesn't really matter. It doesn't really change what I do. I think with Tiger being so dominant, it does make you work harder to go out and press and try to catch whoever that guy is. Personally, I don't think it's really changed my work ethic. I've always gone out and approached the game the same way and tried to do as well as I could.
Q. Does this feel like a long golf course to you, or is that negated by the speed of the fairways? And secondly, what do you like and not like about the course from what you've seen so far?
LUKE DONALD: The back nine that I just played, the last four holes were playing quite long, even in warm conditions and some run on the fairway. The first five holes offered some birdie opportunities. They were not that long really. I was hitting 9-, 8-irons into some holes, one very short par 4 that I believe they might even push the tees up. So I haven't played the front. But I don't think length is a huge factor. I think the last four holes are more of a factor on this golf course, and those are quite long and will play very tough. You would like to have a few-shot lead playing that last hole. It's a tricky hole. Even though it's 507 yards, it gets very narrow off the tee. I hit 3-wood today and gets a little narrow for driver, and that's for someone who only hits it 280. It's a tricky last finishing hole. And what was the second bit?
Q. What you like or don't like about the course from what you've seen so far?
LUKE DONALD: I probably would say that I am not a big fan of long par 3s, but the condition of the golf course is spectacular, and I think the way they have set it up is very, very good so far from what I've seen. The rough is bermuda. It's sitting down a little bit, but you're going to get some fliers and not be able to control it and that's all that you need with bermuda. I love the shaved areas into the bunkers and around the greens. I think it gives you more variety of short game shots. And again, the greens are very firm and very fast.
Q. Obviously Stevie's comments in Akron have generated a lot of different kind of response; from a player's perspective, what do you think?
LUKE DONALD: I think Stevie was given the opportunity to talk and he had the right to say what he wanted to say. The only disappointing thing that I found personally from it was there was no talk of how pleased he was about Adam winning. It was a little bit deflected away from Adam winning, and obviously the caddie does play an important role, but I think if he had mentioned something about Adam, this wouldn't have been an issue.
Q. Adam who?
LUKE DONALD: (Chuckling.)
Q. Are you truly annoyed at lack of television coverage for world No. 1?
LUKE DONALD: It was mostly joking. I get great support in the U.K. and in Europe. I understand that when I'm in the U.S., being a player from England, I'm not going to get as much support. Some personalities attract more attention and media. I'm not kind of one of those. And that's just the way it's going to be.
Q. Don't worry, you have a lot of coverage in Asia. You have been known for -- you have a great short game. Do you focus on the short game when you practice, or how do you practice your short game, iron shots?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I practice on all facets of the game, but I tend to spend a lot of time on the short game. If I'm hitting balls for an hour, I'll try and chip and putt for two. I'm spending a lot of time on the short game; I think it's a big key to winning tournaments. Just showed last week; I played easily well enough to win, I just didn't putt quite well enough. 115 putts for the week was not quite good enough to win, so short game is very important.
Q. A lot of caddie questions this week obviously. You say they are important; can you quantify that? A lot of guys say it's a shot a round, and some guys say they are carrying luggage. Where do you fall?
LUKE DONALD: If I thought my guy was carrying luggage, I wouldn't pay him nearly as much as I am. They are helpful. I had my brother on the bag for eight years and he was a great caddie for me and it was time for a change and a personality, and the switch for John McClaren was a good change, he's a different personality than my brother, keeps me a little bit more lighthearted out on the golf course. But he's a very good caddie. He brings a lot of energy. He speaks up when he knows that I'm making a mistake and he's not afraid to speak up, and he's certainly been a good -- one of the keys to my success this year.
Q. If you had to quantify it, quarter shot a round? A shot a round? What role do they play?
LUKE DONALD: There's a story, Terry Mundy, who caddies for Ian Poulter, he used to caddie out on the women's tour, and he was caddying for one of the best Asian players, I believe. And he got bored with her because she was so good, and he wanted to challenge himself to prove that he could make a difference, and he chose someone that was way down on the rankings and brought her up to No. 10 on the money list. He left her and she went back to 100. You can ask him the story. That's the gist of the story. But I think caddies do make a difference. I don't know how to quantify it, though. Did I say something funny?
MODERATOR: As hot as it is, does it alter your preparations in terms of how much you practice versus how much you may practice when the weather is not as hot?
LUKE DONALD: Certainly, you know, coming off a recently hot weather week last week, as well, you have to manage energy. I played nine today, and I may go play the other nine this afternoon, but I won't play more than 27 holes before Thursday, and be very precise in consistent with my practice. I think playing last week and playing well gives me that opportunity, as well.
Q. You mentioned awhile ago here about majors are meant to feel the biggest deal. How do you feel this week compared to the beginning of last week?
LUKE DONALD: You know, there's a little added tension there, a little bit more anxiety to try and perform well, and it goes back to what you're saying. You've got to somehow focus on what you can control and almost seeing it as just another event. But it's tough. It's a bigger stage, just the way the courses are set up, it makes it feel like a major. It's harder to just kind of play it like a normal event. But you know, again, it's a fine line between trying less and trying too hard.
Q. Is the trick then to fool yourself; it's just another tournament?
LUKE DONALD: I'm not sure. I haven't won one yet, so I don't know what the correct answer is. But yeah, I'll keep trying all different various ways until hopefully I pick up one of these trophies.
Q. How much should we read into where Tiger finished last week?
LUKE DONALD: As I said in the press conference last week, it is very difficult to come off a layoff from injury. When I did it, when I injured my wrist, getting back into competition was completely different to hitting balls on the range. You can feel very comfortable on the range, and getting back into that competitive mode is tough. It might take a little bit of time. From what I heard, he found a lot of positives in his game, but obviously it's not where he wanted to be. He wanted to win that tournament. That was his goal. It's going to take some time, I think. It would surprise me if -- it would surprise me if he went on and won in the next couple of weeks, just because coming off that injury, personally, for myself was very difficult, and I think everyone's going to feel the same way.
MODERATOR: Luke, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.