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March 22, 2006

Luke Donald


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Luke Donald, thank you for joining us. You finished second here last year and won your last start at the Honda Classic. Off to a great start this year. Maybe some opening comments about your season and also about the golf course here.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, the season is going to plan, really. It's been very consistent so far, and obviously breaking through and winning a couple weeks ago obviously meant a lot to me and kind of got me off to a great start. It came with good timing, I think, because this time last year I finished strongly here, finished strongly at The Masters, and hopefully I'm just starting to peak. I'm looking forward to it.

The course is in very good condition, as always. The rough is very consistent. The greens are surprisingly softish. Yesterday they were holding very well, and if they stay like that, then you'll be able to make a few birdies. You still have to play good golf around here if you want to play well.

Q. Was it nice to have a week off after the win or was any part of you wishing to go with the flow?

LUKE DONALD: It was always the plan not to play Bay Hill. You know, I wanted to go through a nice stretch of playing this week. I play next week and I play Augusta, and I just didn't want to play four in a row leading up to the Masters. It's nice to win in kind of I have a house down there, so it's nice to be able to drive home 15 minutes and be home. In that way it was nice not to have to get up that next day to go to Bay Hill.

No, my schedule has always been this way. I always knew I was not going to play.

Q. Did you get a phone call from Arnold?

LUKE DONALD: I did, yes.

Q. How was that?

LUKE DONALD: It was tricky. Just being presented with a trophy and handed a cell phone with Arnold Palmer on the other end. It's hard to say no to someone as great a golfer as he is. I pretty much just told him, well, I'll think about it and get back to him (laughter). I didn't want to say no to his face.

Q. You had some friends down last week, didn't you?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I had some friends from high school, English friends that had been planning a few months back that they were coming in. We'd organized a lot of stuff to do.

Q. How much golf did you play last week?

LUKE DONALD: I had an RBS day on Wednesday, and then I practiced Saturday and Sunday, so not a whole lot. But my game felt good yesterday, so no rust.

Q. Isn't an RBS day like playing four tournaments?

LUKE DONALD: This one was an easy day compared to some of them. It was just a golf clinic with playing a hole about eight times.

Q. How soon after winning was that phone call?

LUKE DONALD: It was literally, Jimmy Roberts interviewed me and that was the end, and then it was two seconds later (laughter). So it didn't give me much time to think about it.

I can't remember the official who gave me the phone, but he said, "This is Arnold Palmer."

Q. You said, "Tell him I'm not here?"

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I'm busy (laughter).

Q. Are you moving to Florida?

LUKE DONALD: I bought a house there last summer and I'll be wintering there.

Q. But you're still based

LUKE DONALD: I'll be going up to Chicago the end of April.

Q. Blood is getting thinner as you get older?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I'm getting accustomed to nice weather. The Chicago winters were getting to me. It's a little cold up there.

Q. Did Arnold get straight to the straight, Luke?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, he just said, "I'd love for you to play in my tournament, what do you say?" I didn't really know what to say. It wasn't really a possibility to play, and I felt bad saying well, trying to I guess not answer the question really, but say it in a nice way (laughter); I'll think about it.

Q. Where is your home club when you're down in Florida?

LUKE DONALD: The Bear's Club.

Q. Do you feel a weight has been lifted off your shoulders by winning a tournament?

LUKE DONALD: I think a little bit. I think before this, my only win over here was a 54 hole rainout. It was more of proving to myself that I could close the deal on a 72 hole event and kind of lead from the front and finish it off. I think winning at Honda kind of proved that to myself more than anything.

Q. Was there any doubts in your own mind that you could finish it off?

LUKE DONALD: No. I knew I had the ability to do that, it was just a matter of time. I've won a couple times in Europe. I've won at Target earlier in December. This was just a little bit different to Target; I had to lead from the front rather than coming from behind. I really thought I was the best player there and I deserved to win.

Q. When did you say you're going up to Augusta?

LUKE DONALD: I'm playing BellSouth, so I'll just go up after that, Sunday night.

Q. You won't go up before that?

LUKE DONALD: I played there a couple weeks ago, practice round. Just went up for a day.

Q. Your thoughts?

LUKE DONALD: Well, it's a little longer. Obviously the major hole changes are 4 and 7. 11 is a little bit different. I think 4 and 7 are what make it harder. 4 was into the wind, I hit full 3 wood. So it's a tough par 3, but it was tough before, and it's going to be tough for everyone.

Q. Would you tell us what you hit on 7 that day, how you played that?

LUKE DONALD: 7, obviously they go different directions. It was downwind, and it was driver and still an 8 iron. You wouldn't want to hit much more than 8 iron into that green.

Q. What did you make?

LUKE DONALD: I made a 2 on 4.

Q. What's the problem?

LUKE DONALD: No problem, just playing into my hands (laughter).

Q. Where was the flag that day?

LUKE DONALD: It was up on the back shelf, kind of in the middle of the green.

Q. Where was the ball?

LUKE DONALD: I hit it just past the pin about six feet.

Q. With a 3 wood?

LUKE DONALD: 3 wood, yeah. One of my better shots.

Q. A full 3 wood?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, it was a good wind into us. It was 248 yards, I think, to the pin.

Q. What kind of advice are you going to have for Dillon Dougherty during The Masters?

LUKE DONALD: He needs to just have fun out there. I think this is going to be a great experience for him. He's going to hopefully get a nice pairing. He's been up there a few times, and I think he's almost got to the point where he's thinking about it so much that he's putting a lot of pressure on himself. For Dillon, he's a good player, and if he just plays his game I think he'll do fine.

You know, more often than not he just needs to enjoy the atmosphere and kind of the spirit of Augusta and how the course will be playing and just take it as an experience. He shouldn't expect too much out of it.

Q. Looking back at your first major, what are the obstacles a player faces when they play a major for the first time?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I had to face Carnoustie, so I had a lot of obstacles to face, I think.

You know, I think it's getting ahead of yourself, thinking too much. I don't think when you haven't played that many professional events, you think you need to do more than you have to, and you put pressure on yourself and you start making mistakes.

If you can just play your own game, he'll have a good chance of making the cut, I think. He just needs to have some fun out there more than anything.

Q. Your second shot to the 18th, going back to Mirasol, how did it look to you? And those of us who were watching on television, we could see and the commentator was telling us about the bunker. How close did it look to you to be to the bunker?

LUKE DONALD: It's hard to say. That shot is a little bit uphill and you couldn't see the bottom of the pin. That's just the way the green was. But I had a really nice yardage, 199 yards, and it was just a full 5 iron.

When I hit the ball, it came off very solidly and was struck nicely on a nice trajectory, and I wasn't really worried in the air that it would not carry the bunker.

When I saw it on replay, it was a lot closer than I thought. It carried the bunker by a couple feet, just pitched on the fringe. There wasn't much to spare, but luckily I hit it well.

Q. What are your main memories of the final day here last year?

LUKE DONALD: Just struggling early on. You know, the wind was a big factor here this time last year. I don't really remember too much about the round. The thing I'm going to try and remember is how I finished off strong and gave myself a chance to win. I birdied 16, made a good putt for par on 17, and then almost made birdie on 18 when I don't think anybody birdied 18 that final day. I'm just trying to think about the positives rather than what happened before that.

Q. Was there any carry over effect from that tournament last year into the last round of the Honda, the lessons that you might have learned from that?

LUKE DONALD: I think any time you're close and you don't quite make it, you learn from that. You know, those kind of experiences are good for you. They teach you a few things. For me, I think last year I was getting too involved watching leaderboards and trying to change my game, depending on where I was on the leaderboard.

Right now, I think it's more of a case of me just going out there and playing my own game, not even worrying what everyone else is doing. That way I'm not I'm not really changing my expectations.

Q. Is that what you did last year, on Monday you were looking at the leaderboard?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, that's what I mean. I think last year in general, I'd find myself looking at leaderboards; two off the lead, let's try and make a birdie here, rather than just playing my own golf and not worrying about what everyone else is doing.

Q. Right to the finish, or did it come to a point where

LUKE DONALD: Come Sunday, the last six holes or so, you need to know where you are, where you stand. I mean, it's hard even if you don't look at leaderboards, you still roughly know where you are. That's just the way it is.

It's better than studying them, that's for sure.

Q. I was talking to Pat after you won. He thought this would kind of free you up; in other words, that it could open the door and now it would free you up to go on to bigger and better things?

LUKE DONALD: I'm definitely hoping so. Any time you kind of get that taste, you want to keep experiencing it. You look back at my college record, as soon as I started to get those wins, they kind of came more frequently and often. I'm hoping that will correlate to my professional record, as well.

I feel good about my game right now, and I feel good about the way I'm hitting it, the way I'm thinking, and I'm looking forward to every week and approaching every week expecting to do well, expecting to have a chance to win. I like where I am right now.

Q. One of your goals is you always talked about being a Top 10 player in the world. I think that tournament put you at Top 10. How did you feel when you saw that ranking come out?

LUKE DONALD: It felt good. That was really a goal for the last year, and I didn't quite make it. In a way, that was disappointing, but I was very close; it was only a shot or two here or there.

You know, now I've reached Top 10 and I think the same for this goal is to set my sights a lot higher and strive to become the best player in the world. If I start believing in that, that I am the best and that I can make it there, then hopefully the results will show that and I'll start progressing up the ladder.

Q. After winning, you spoke about wanting to be the best in the world. How did you feel about that when you saw that in the newspaper and saw that in print, did you think, "Oh, God, I've gone too far there"?

LUKE DONALD: Not at all. I was happy with what was written. My girlfriends reads through all those articles and sifts through the good ones and not so good ones and tells me the good parts about all of them. You know, I don't know how some of the comments came off, but it was more just me trying to set my goals high.

I feel like if I want to become the best player in the world, I've got to start thinking like I am the best player.

Q. The stuff about Tiger?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I hope some of my comments took nothing away from Tiger. He's a phenomenal player. He's absolutely the No. 1 player in the world right now. That's what I'm striving to be. But I think the only way for me to catch him is to start believing I'm as good as him. If I don't believe that, I'm not going to be as good as him, full stop. So I've got to start believing.

Q. You said you've got to stop looking at score boards. When you used to look at score boards and you saw the name T. Woods there, what did it do to you?

LUKE DONALD: I think his name you expect to see, so it didn't really change anything. He was often up on the leaderboard, so it was nothing new.

But I think you see his name up there, and I think a lot of golfers get into the mentality that when he's up in contention that you've got to do more to beat him. I feel like that's probably not the right approach; that you've got to just keep playing your own game. He's very good at just playing his own game and not making mistakes, but I really don't think you have to do a lot more just to compete with him; you just have to do what you know best.

Q. Is that why you feel the way some of your peers do, feel some intimidation and try and raise it when they should just play within themselves?

LUKE DONALD: That's exactly right. You look at two of Tiger's wins this year. He's obviously played great, but David Toms three putted on 18 and I think Tiger finished bogey bogey to win at Doral. I think even at Buick in the playoff, par par was good enough to win. That's nothing spectacular.

I'm not saying Tiger can't hit spectacular shots all the time, and he does, but those two wins just showed he was playing within himself when I think other golfers around him thought they had to do more. You start pressing and that's when you make bogeys, and he takes the trophy home.

You know, if Tiger is in contention or you're playing with him, don't watch him; just play your own game.

Q. You've won a second PGA TOUR title, but what do you think is the biggest change in you as a player from this time a year ago?

LUKE DONALD: Probably just talking about my belief in trying to be the best player out here rather than being a Top 10 player.

I think last year I talked about being very comfortable being a Top 10 player and finishing Top 10 and going to the next week and thinking that that was very satisfactory. But right now, I want to up my goals, and if I finish 10th this week, I'd go away feeling that I didn't play well enough rather than thinking, well, that was a good week.

It's just about upping that kind of mindset.

Q. I think a lot of players think No. 2 is the ultimate goal for them, a lot of your peers. Is that why there is such a gap between Tiger Woods and everyone else in the World Ranking?

LUKE DONALD: I think what you think often happens. That could be a big factor. I think if you start believing that you can be the best player, then it will slowly happen.

Yeah, I think you saw that in Vijay a couple years ago. I think he got there, got very satisfied with it, and now maybe he feels like he's done it now, so he doesn't have to do it again.

I don't know, I think you have to believe in it, yeah.

Q. At what point did you get away from the British way of thinking, sort of saying, "Well, I'm not really that good," et cetera?

LUKE DONALD: You're selling the British short, huh? Well, I've been over here almost nine years now. I've been surrounded by my coach is American. The guy I work with on my mind, Jim Fanning, he's American, and their ideas are washing off on me a little bit.

Probably at the end of 2003 I tried to start believing in myself a bit more. I didn't really have a very good 2003. I can't really pinpoint it to a day or a real time frame.

But definitely setting goals and trying to be better than what you are is something I've been trying to do for a couple years.

Q. What's your goal for this year then? You said Top 10 last year.

LUKE DONALD: To keep improving, really, just keep moving up that World Ranking, striving to be the best. It's going to take a while. Obviously if I won the next ten tournaments, I'm not sure if I would catch Tiger. I don't really know how the math works. I'd have to probably win the next 40 events.

Q. Speaking of the press clippings that you have sifted through, did you hear about Johnny Miller's comment when you finished, announcing to America that you were 28 and single?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, and my girlfriend heard that, too, but she laughed it off. It's funny because like five minutes after he said that, I walked off the 18th green and I was just about to give Diane a hug and they cut it off. It was like perfect timing. Don't worry, Diane is safe.

Q. And then Arnold called.

LUKE DONALD: This was just a little bit later, yeah.

Q. Will you give consideration to play his tournament next year?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I think so. I think with the new schedule and everything, I'm going to have to look at various tournaments that I haven't played in before.

I think in the past I've gone to tournaments where I've felt I've done well. I haven't been to Bay Hill or two or three years now, and my game is obviously different from two or three years ago. Maybe a course back then that didn't suit me might suit me now. I wasn't going to play Honda originally. I was going to play the Sony, but it was too early in the year and I was very tired. And I thought I'll play Honda because it's a home event; I'll be down there anyway, and it worked out great.

You know, I think it will be good to play a few events I haven't played for a while.

Q. What would you say to him if you bumped into him at Augusta National?

LUKE DONALD: Just, I apologize, and I made sure the next day that a message was got to him that it was just an impossibility for me to play. I had friends coming in and it was nothing personal and I had to play there in future years.

Q. It's nice to know he cares, though.

LUKE DONALD: Well, he obviously wants the best field possible for his tournament. He's done a lot more the game, and I think if I'm not mistaken, they're changing the name next year, aren't they, to the Arnold Palmer Classic or something presented by MasterCard. That's a great honor for him, and he obviously wants the best field possible. You can't really blame him. He didn't give me much notice, but you can't blame him.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Luke Donald, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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