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July 17, 2013

Luke Donald


LYNN WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Luke, can you tell us your thoughts on the golf course this week.
LUKE DONALD: I like Muirfield. I think out of all The Open venues, it's probably one of the least quirky ones. It's quite straightforward. Obviously with the weather conditions it's playing firm and fast. It's going to be about controlling your golf ball this week. And the weather looks good. The course is set up I think just the way the R & A would like it. It's bouncy, it's a little bit of a breeze out there. Firm conditions are a good protector of the golf course, and we certainly have that this week.
LYNN WALLACE: You took 5th last year at Lytham. What are your expectations this year?
LUKE DONALD: Expectations are to be in contention. Did a pretty good job at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago, and hopefully more the same this week.

Q. Nice one to start: Women membership, now that Augusta has moved on it, what do you think about playing The Open at a single-sex golf club?
LUKE DONALD: I think wherever the governing bodies decide to play a tournament, it's my job to turn up and be ready and play, and that's what I am going to. Going forward, we'd love to see these policies be a bit more inclusive. I think the R & A is certainly trending in the right direction. A good example of that being the Ladies Open being held in St. Andrews in a couple of weeks. Hopefully that trend will continue.

Q. Now that Justin has won a Major, and he's of the same generation of yourself and Paul Casey, et cetera. How much of an inspiration or driving force is that going to be for you guys?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I think it's an inspiration in terms of just looking at Justin, just looking at Adam. They've had some similar career paths, up until they won a Major, to myself. I think having won a World Golf Championship and some tournaments, big tournaments around the world, but not quite having broken through. I feel like hopefully my turn's coming. We've been on a similar path up until this year, and obviously they've stepped up a gear and I would love to follow in their footsteps.

Q. Apart from the not going in the rough, what's the key thought around here this week?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I think anytime you have a course that's this firm and fiery, it's really about controlling your ball and controlling the ball flight. Even though there wasn't too much wind the last few days, there's enough where if you get off line by a few yards, it can end up being off line by 15 or 20 yards, just because the ground is that firm. So again it's really being specific with where you land the ball. I think that what's so great about The Open Championship is it gives you options. There's so many options. Most of the time we play tournaments, it's one club to a certain yardage and you're trying to stick it to that point. Here it takes a little bit more imagination, but also more control. When it's this firm, I think firmness is as good a protector of a golf course than anything. Unless you get severe conditions, like we did back in 2002 here. Firmness is a great protector. And as players we don't see it very often. It demands a lot more thought, a lot more conscious decisions about where you want to land it, and how much it's going to roll and all that kind of stuff. In that regards I think it's going to be a great championship.

Q. In a way, although it's tough, do you feel that it's fun, as well, to be able to test yourself?
LUKE DONALD: Of course. I think it's fun to sit on the edge of the green five yards away and you can putt it, you could hit an 8-iron, you could hit a lob wedge. There's so many different options. And I think we don't as pros get that opportunity very often. We play in a lot of thick rough and lush, green grass all the time where the ball tends to hold. This week the ball is getting away from us. We're very good at hitting to a specific spot and a number, but controlling how much it releases is different and it's more of a challenge. And 51 weeks of the year we don't really play this kind of golf. But this is, as I said, it's probably one of the less quirky courses. It's reasonably straightforward. There's still some undulating lumps and hollows, like there are at most links courses. In terms of being a solid golf course, I think this is. And it has in history produced pretty solid winners.

Q. As well as Justin providing inspiration, is there not a little exasperation in your case and maybe thinking, why not me?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I'm always searching for ways to improve and ways to keep giving myself chances. That's a constant battle and a constant thought process that's going on in my head. I try not to see it as exasperation. I try to see it as a challenge, more than anything.

Q. I know you've tinkered with your golf swing a little bit this year. I'm wondering if you're at the point where you're not giving it a thought, you're just hitting golf shots, or is still a little bit in the evolution?
LUKE DONALD: It's still a little bit in the evolution. And I think at times when I've struggled, I've been bogged down a little too much with some swing thoughts. I've seen a lot of progress even a couple of weeks ago in France. I hit a lot of very solid thoughts. I came undone on two or three holes that kind of ruined that week. But I hit a lot of very solid shots in control. And I'm seeing progress and seeing improvement and hopefully more of that this week.

Q. After you play in an Open Championship and get into that links mindset, is it difficult to get back to your other game? Does it affect it? Does it do some harm?
LUKE DONALD: I think more so if it's windy conditions, not so much the breeze we've had today, in the last few days, you're not hitting extreme shots where you're just trying to keep the ball out of the air completely. There's been a little bit of a breeze to make it tricky, but not so much where you have to really think about the trajectory to such an extent, where you might get into some bad habits of leaning into the ball a little bit or something like that. If it does pick up, the wind, then I'm playing next week in Canada, there will be some adjustments to make, yeah. I'll have to go and make sure to do all my checks, to make sure I'm setting up properly and not playing the wind but just getting in a better setup position.

Q. You're part Scottish, and maybe you can go into a little bit of detail there, more importantly the Scottish Open, when it was played at Loch Lomond, the top players wanted to practice before The Open. I know you did at Castle Stuart one year. It's a pretty thin field this year. Has the Scottish Open lost its spark a little bit? Is it in the wrong week, just one week before The Open?
LUKE DONALD: I think the last point you make, sometimes the week before The Open can be more disadvantageous than a couple of weeks before. It seems like how people are preparing these days for the Majors, certainly the top players tending to take that week off before to come to the course, to prepare that way. I don't think it's really a knock on the Scottish Open as much. I think it's just where it falls on the schedule more than anything. Yeah, I've tried different scenarios, playing the week before, taking a week off, taking two weeks off, I'm still trying to find the right concoction. But I think for me, I certainly have enjoyed coming to a Major venue the week before and spending a few days away from the crowds, where you can spend some time hitting the shots that you feel you need to work on, and then you have a few days to kind of work on those shots.

Q. (No microphone.)
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, it would look that way. I think the French Open had a reasonably strong field this year. And as I said, I think that week before can be tough for some players.

Q. It's been, I believe, two decades since an Englishman won The Open, do you have any theories as to why that might be?
LUKE DONALD: I think just in general golfers and fields are getting closer. It's becoming tougher to win these days. There's a lot of great talent out there. Technology has probably brought golfers a little bit closer. And it's not like we practice and play on links golf week in and week out. Like I said, 51 weeks of the year, maybe a little less, but a lot of the time we're not playing on golf courses like this. So we don't have an advantage in terms of playing links golf throughout the year. So that, coupled with fields being very strong these days, it's finding that right time when it happens.

Q. Given what's going on in athletics and the spotlight on drugs in sport, talk us through how often you may have been tested in the last year as part of the golf's battle against drugs in the sport.
LUKE DONALD: I have been tested, I think, a couple of times over in the U.S.

Q. And obviously there's talk about Whereabouts coming in, if you were part of the selection process. What do you think about it? Are you happy with all of that, that could be brought in ahead of the Olympics?
LUKE DONALD: I'm not exactly sure. Are they going to change it, the process of drug testing for golfers? Is that what you're saying? I haven't really read up about that.

Q. I'm just wondering what's your thoughts on that, if they do Whereabouts, you could be knocked on the door at 6:00 in the morning.
LUKE DONALD: I think that's a possibility right now, if I'm not mistaken, that we're liable to be tested at any time, any place. I know, I think, historically, we've just been tested onsite at tournaments we've been playing. And during the course of the year I get tested probably four or five times a year. Again, it's something I haven't really given a lot of thought to. If you've see how far I hit it, you'd probably understand that (laughter).

Q. Phil Mickelson was in yesterday saying that Muirfield and Troon were the two courses on the rota where he felt his game was suited to winning. Where does Muirfield rank for you? Is this the course for you?
LUKE DONALD: In terms of being a lot less quirky, yeah. As I said, it does tend to bring out pretty solid golfers as winners in the past, here. It's guys that have a lot of control in their golf ball. You don't get too many sort of unknowns or surprises that win it at Muirfield. Because of that I like that. I think it's going to suit the players that have experience, that know how to play links, that are in control of their game and obviously the top players maybe have a little bit of an advantage. So in terms of a golf course, again, it's a little bit like Merion in terms of there's not going to be many drivers out there. I might hit three or four, if the wind stays this direction. Again, it's not really a course that demands power and length off the tee. It's more about precision, keep it in play, and hopefully that's good for me.

Q. You sort of answered my question about the drivers. But I'm wondering more generally does the fact that on a firm course like this many players will be hitting shorter clubs off the tees, does that really take the big advantage that long bombers have away from them and open up the championship to more players?
LUKE DONALD: I think it does. I mean I played with Keegan and Dustin this morning over nine holes and I didn't see them -- I saw Dustin hit a couple of drivers. There's a couple fun holes where if they want to be aggressive hitting drivers, they can get to par-4s at 380 yards.

Q. Which one?
LUKE DONALD: Dustin hit driver on No. 11 today. He was five yards short of the green. You've still got to do it in competition and take it on, but it's there. It's funny some of the shorter holes have wider fairways. The longer holes are a little bit narrower and tougher. A guy that can try and be aggressive, but what we saw the last time The Open was really fast and fiery at Hoylake, Tiger, I'm not sure if he hit a driver for 72 holes.

Q. One.
LUKE DONALD: He might have hit one. I still think being in the fairway, being in control, you know, I think that was probably one of his best wins I ever saw while I was playing golf. The fact that he -- everyone thought he was going to hit driver and take advantage of all these holes and have sand wedge into every hole, but he kept it in play, hitting greens. Obviously he was hitting longer shots into greens, but he was in the fairway, and that's extremely important when it's this firm and fiery.

Q. Just changing sports, Andy Murray, obviously he's had some pretty crushing defeats over the past four or five years but he turned it around to his advantage - won Olympic gold, U.S. Open, and now Wimbledon. How much admiration do you have for a guy like that? And would an Olympic gold be something that would glimmer in your eye?
LUKE DONALD: I have a lot of admiration for Andy, obviously. He's knocked on the door many times. Through a lot of determination, a lot of hard work, a lot of belief. He's worked on his game, on his fitness; you can see the changes in his body. It was just a culmination. It was his time to win. It's good to see that hard work pays off. It was obviously a little bit of a catalyst in winning the Olympic gold medal, and come 2016 I'd love to be there and have a chance to win Olympic gold. I watched the Olympics growing up as a kid, and it was a lot of fun. It would be great to represent your country, which is always fun, and try and win a medal.

Q. And if you could swap it for Olympic gold or U.S. PGA Championship, would you?
LUKE DONALD: I would take the Major every time.
LYNN WALLACE: Thanks, Luke, for joining us, good luck this week.
LUKE DONALD: Thank you.

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