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September 19, 2012

Luke Donald


LAURA HILL:  We'd like to welcome Luke Donald to the interview room.  Luke, you've had some success here at East Lake.  Maybe just give us your thoughts on coming back here, playoffs ending, and trying to win here and capture the FedExCup.
LUKE DONALD:  I think it's everyone's goal at the beginning of the year to make sure you get to East Lake, to be in that top 30 to have the chance to win the FedExCup.  I've obviously had some success here.  I haven't won this event, but I've come close a few times.  I feel like it's a course that sets up pretty well for me.  I enjoy this week.
Obviously, a little bit different from the last two years.  I'm a little bit further back in the pack, but I still have a chance.  We saw that the last couple FedExCups.  No matter where you are, you still have a chance to win, and I'll be trying hard to do that, and finish my PGA TOUR season on a high note.

Q.  Do you know what you have to do?  Have you looked at all the permutations?
LUKE DONALD:  I know I have to win.  I think that's the only thing I really need to worry about.  I saw somewhere that I need to win, and Rory finish sixth or seventh or worse.  Unlikely the way he's been playing, but you just never know.  He obviously, I don't think he's played at East Lake before.  So you don't know how the course is going to suit his game or any of the other guys.
But, yeah, my focus is really to win.  I think it's kind of nice in a way to be a little bit further.  The only positive I see of being a little bit further back is that's my only goal is to come here and win and not think about the other permutations because something like that mindset which would serve me pretty well at Disney as well.  So I'm kind of coming into the week with that kind of mindset.

Q.  Do you get the feeling that this was one of those years where you were perhaps a bit disadvantaged because the other three courses all seemed to have suited the bombers?
LUKE DONALD:  I think it was a little bit top heavy, favoring the guys that hit it far.  But fortunately, it's a rotation in these FedExCup playoffs.  Next year, I know one of the courses is a place where I play in Chicago, Conway Farms is not necessarily a bomber's course.
The New York event, Liberty National, could go either way.  But, yeah, I suppose this year I would have had to play very solidly.  My game wasn't quite there, and as a result, I'm lying in 15th.

Q.  You know Rory McIlroy pretty well.  Just how intimidating is he?
LUKE DONALD:  I don't know if he's intimidating.  Certainly his golf is very impressive.  The run that he's gone on the last couple months is extremely‑‑ it's a great run.  To win the major, the PGA by that many shots and then obviously win a couple more at the playoff events.  He's finding his form.  When a guy that has that much talent is driving it as good as he is, and putting and chipping well, he's a tough guy to beat.

Q.  I mentioned that because Greg Norman had said that he believes Rory actually intimidates Tiger Woods at times.  Something Rory doesn't concur with.  But is that something you observe out there on the course?
LUKE DONALD:  I don't see it in that light, specifically, no.  Any time I play with Rory he's a fierce competitor, but he's a gentleman on the golf course.  So I don't know if that's intimidating or not, but certainly his game is impressive.

Q.  Obviously Rory has done pretty well, it's been two back‑to‑backs and won the PGA Championship.  He comes here and the points get reset and people have really closed up on him.  Do you feel that's fair?  Do you think they've got it right this time?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, it's very hard to get the system perfect for everyone.  There was a situation a few years ago where Vijay won so many that this made this event inconsequential.  They wanted to get to a point where everyone had a chance.  Obviously, the Top 5 guys are an advantage to those guys.
But, yeah, coming into this week, you'd say Rory probably deserves to have won it.  But that's not the way it's set up.  To be honest the FedExCup media‑wise, and television‑wise, has been a big success.
For the players, we get to play four great events with most of the top players, and that's good for us too.

Q.  The Ryder Cup follows straight on the heels of the four big events.  Do you think there should be a break between them?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, it's certainly the last two or three months have been full on.  There's not much rest.  It's been a busy schedule.  I don't know.  In a way, I think we're on this run of events anyway.  Why not just have them back‑to‑back?  I'm not sure one more week off would really make that much difference at this point.  So we're all in the same boat, both guys on the European team and the US Team.  We're obviously going to be tied come Sunday next week, but I don't think it will change.  I wouldn't think it would have made much difference if we had an extra week off.

Q.  Can you give us an idea how you play the par‑3s on the back nine, the 11th hole, the 18th hole?  If you could give us an idea how you play those holes tactically, when they come in the round, and how do you like the 18th hole as a par‑3?
LUKE DONALD:  11th hole is reasonably straightforward.  Uphill par‑3.  Green slopes pretty heavily from back to front.  It's important to keep your ball below the pin, if possible.  The front pin locations are tricky, because if you get above the hole, putts are extremely fast and slopy.  18, again, it's a long hole.  It's 225 to 240, somewhere between a 3‑iron rescue for some guys, maybe a 4‑iron for some guys.
I think it has produced some excitement over the last few years.  It's always interesting to have a par‑3.  I haven't really thought about it too much.  But it's a long hole.  I don't think you're going to give up too many birdies.
But it's certainly a hole that you're just looking to kind of play to the middle of the green.  Hope to make a 25‑footer for birdie and walk off.  If you walk off with four threes, you're probably going to be ahead of the field.

Q.  With the Ryder Cup next week and your adopted home town.  I was just wondering what kind of things have you been hearing from friends and neighbors in Chicago about your chances next week?
LUKE DONALD:  Mostly just people saying I'm going to support you but support Team USA.  That's what I hear a lot.  But I'm excited to have it to a place that I've kind of considered home the last 15 years.  If I can drag away even just 1% of the crowd's support on to my side or the European's side, then it's an advantage.  The biggest advantage for any team is playing at home.  If I can just take a little bit of that advantage away, then I'm helping the team in a small way.
But I think the people of Chicago are looking forward to it.  They're a big sport city, and it should be a fun event.

Q.  Have you gotten anyone, a friend or a neighbor, that's said, I will root for Europe for you?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, there are quite a few, but I probably won't name names (laughing).

Q.  You play Medinah.  What are your thoughts on the tournament?  Are they changing as you play it more?
LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, I played it Monday.  The course is coming into good condition.  The fairways were struggling six weeks ago.  They're much improved and will be decent playing surfaces.  The greens are in great shape.  They've set it up where there's not much rough, no rough around the greens, hardly any off the tee.  The greens were soft and they're pure.
So as I said on Twitter, I think as long as it's not cold and rainy, which it could be in Chicago, but if the weather is decent, I think you'll see a lot of birdies.  It will make for a fun, exciting Ryder Cup.
There are going to be a lot of people chipping in.  It's going to be fun.

Q.  How would a victory here change your year?  How would it transform your year?  What would it do to your golfing year?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, if a victory also won me the FedExCup, I think that's different to just a victory not winning me the FedExCup.  I think another victory would mean another piece of silverware that added to a solid year.  You win the FedExCup, it turns into a bit better than that.
I've certainly been on the side a couple years ago or even last year where I lost by a shot and had a good chance, and someone from way back in the pack came and snatched the FedExCup.  Now I've kind of got that chance this week, and that's exciting.

Q.  But even with just winning this particular title here at the TOUR Championship, given the field, the elite field, that's got to make it special in a way even if you were just to win the TOUR Championship.
LUKE DONALD:  I think so.  We're down to the 30 best guys.  30 of the guys that have had probably the most solid years out here this year.  So you can go out and win this event, obviously it's a smaller number of people to beat, but the field is strong.
Any time you win, this would be two wins on the US tour.  Same as what I did last year.  One less in Europe.  But certainly it will be a very solid year.  It's going to be tough to kind of maintain what I did last year, but I've given it a good run.

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