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September 10, 2013

Luke Donald


MARK STEVENS:  I'd like to welcome Luke Donald.  You're No.54 in the FedExCup standings, coming into your home course here at Conway Farms.  Do you want to talk about your thoughts coming into this week and then we'll have a few questions.
LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, I guess if there was ever a year to struggle, to come into an event needing a big week, this is a good one to come to.  Obviously it's a course I'm very familiar with.  I've been a member here for the last 10, 12 years and played here during my time at Northwestern.  Obviously never set up in tournament conditions, but certainly have a lot more familiarity than most of the players who probably are seeing it for the first time today, and hopefully that's an advantage for me.  I certainly need a big week, and looking forward to being the semi‑host, I suppose, this week.
It's nice to see this tournament come here.  BMW, I've watched the progression of how this event has been put up in the last couple months, and it's pretty amazing to see it go from nothing to what it is now, and it's good to have it here at a course that's very fond for me.

Q.  Who holds the course record here?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, the old course record I do, before they lengthened the course a couple years ago.  I'm not sure who owns it now.  Probably‑‑ I think there was some amateurs from the Walker Cup, one of the guys went low.  But I held it before they made a couple changes.
They Luke‑proofed it, they added some length (laughing).  No, it doesn't play that long, this course, but certainly they made some good changes over the last couple years, and even asked my opinion, which was nice of them.

Q.  What's the toughest hole and the easiest hole on this course for you?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, the course is going to play different, I think, come Thursday.  I think we're in a hot spell right now.  It's going to be a record high today this year.  The wind is blowing kind of out of the south and west, and the course kind of plays pretty short when the wind is that way.  I think it's going to switch, make it a little bit more difficult.  It's not a very difficult golf course, but I think when the wind comes out of the east and the north, which it could well do come the tournament days, it's going to play a little tougher.
4, 5, 6 are a good stretch of holes.  I think 5 will probably play the toughest hole of the week.
The easiest, that's a tough one.  15 is going to be a fun hole.  It's a drivable par‑4.  They're going to set it up to tempt guys to drive it, and you should be able to see a lot of birdies on that one.

Q.  How do you draw the line between being host and player?
LUKE DONALD:  I'm not really the host.  Especially if people don't like the golf course, I'm definitely not the host.  But I certainly talked with the TOUR leading up to this event, and they wanted their opinions on some courses around this, and I tried to steer them towards this course.  Obviously selfishly because I know it very well, and I think it's a good place to have a tournament.
You know, other than just giving some opinions on the golf course that the players have been asking me, they're aren't too many roles that I need to perform this week.

Q.  To follow up on that, how many players have asked your opinion on how to play this golf course and how much are you revealing?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, a handful have asked me what it's like.  It's very hard to describe in detail to someone what it's like.  You've got to go out there and play it.  But I told them that it doesn't play overly long.  It's going to offer up some birdies, a lot of wedges into some of these holes.  Just trying to give them a little bit of a brief kind of oversight of what it's like without giving too much away.
You know, I think‑‑ I could say as much as I like.  I don't think it's going to make a difference.  The pros are going to make up their mind over the next couple days playing it and figuring it out themselves, and obviously I have a little bit of advantage having played this course many times, but hopefully that advantage will be more on the greens.  That's what I'll need to do this week is be successful on the greens.
Obviously I think they're reasonably subtle.  Some have some decent breaks.  The putting green today was a foot and a half, two feet faster than what I had last week, so it's changing even for me, what I see week in and week out.  But just knowing where I think the pins will be and the way the putts roll, hopefully that will be an advantage.

Q.  How would you sum up your year?  And what would be your level of disappointment?
LUKE DONALD:  I think someone who was at the pinnacle of the game not too long ago and is now 54th on the FedExCup, it's been disappointing.  It's been very hard this year.  It's been frustrating at times, and I've had to make some tough decisions in terms of changing swing coach.  You know, it's been a bit of a distraction because of some of those things.
But I feel pretty good about where things are headed, and I'm excited about the future.  This year I still have time to rescue it.  I'm going to have to do that this week, and that's the beauty of the FedExCup.  It takes one good week to kind of rescue a year.  And I certainly have that opportunity this week, and I have a great opportunity to do that.
But it's certainly been a frustrating year, but it's not something‑‑ again, I've made these tough decisions, I've made some changes, and I'm excited about what the future will hold.

Q.  (No microphone.)
LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, kind of a light went off in my head when I played with Justin on Sunday of the U.S. Open.  I was just very impressed with his ball‑striking, and I felt like major championships, if you want to win them and be consistent and have chances to win them, there's a little bit more of a premium on tee to green at majors than most weeks.  It doesn't matter how good you are at short game; if you're hitting enough fairways and not hitting enough greens at majors, you just can't win them.
You know, I just feel like I needed to get a little bit more consistency in my game.  I have a little bit of an old‑fashioned swing where I use my hands a bit too much and not rely on just the bigger muscles, which is what Chuck is trying to get me to do in my swing now.  Hopefully those things will lead to more consistency tee to green and I can continue to be good around the greens, and it'll just make me a better player.

Q.  You've been part of the Conway Farms process ever since they first asked you about could we have an event here.  Could you talk about going through that process and what it's like that tournament week has finally arrived after all this time?
LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, as I said, it's been fun to see all the tents and everything that's gone into this tournament.  I think most of us players, we rock up on Monday or Tuesday and just think it's just been put up the week before, and it's not kind of the case.  It's a two‑, three‑month, four‑month process of organization, and it's a big deal, and we're very fortunate as players.  I think just seeing it firsthand being built up gave me more of an appreciation for how lucky we are and what great tournaments we play in and what great sponsors you go through to put on a great event for us.
It's been fun just talking to the guys involved at BMW, the guys involved on the TOUR about the course, any kind of changes they were looking for, and it was nice to have an opinion.  I'm not sure if they listened to me or not, but they certainly asked my opinion, and it's nice to see it finally come here.  I'm looking forward to this week, and hopefully it'll be a good week.

Q.  How tough was it to tell Pat you were going to look elsewhere?
LUKE DONALD:  Very tough.  Outside of telling my brother I didn't want him to caddie for me anymore, it was probably the second toughest decision I've ever had to make on the golf course.  I've had a lot of success with Pat, and I got to No.1 and certainly would never take anything away from what we did together.  But it's a feeling‑‑ as a player you always know what you feel inside, and I want to just feel a little bit more in control of my ball when I'm over it.  Hopefully the switch to Chuck, that will come about.
But I continue to have Pat as a mentor and have him work on my short game.  I think he's one of the best short game coaches in the world, and obviously he's proven that with me.  It was a tough decision.  He understood it perfectly.  He's always wanted me to be as good as I can be and make those decisions that I think will make that difference in my career.  It's just one of those things that was very tough but I felt like I had to do.  I felt like if I didn't at least try something different, I would have regrets that I didn't at least try.

Q.  You mentioned the Sunday round with Justin at the U.S. Open.  Did you discuss with him afterward‑‑ I guess at first you had approached Sean Foley.  Could you take us through that part?
LUKE DONALD:  No, I really hadn't given it a thought who I would change to until after the Open Championship.  You know, I was very impressed with Sean's guys and how they strike the ball:  Hunter, Tiger obviously, Justin.  Those guys hit a lot of quality shots.
So I talked to Sean briefly about the possibility of working together, just to get his thoughts, and he came back to me with a very honest answer, that he didn't think, considering what he had on his plate, that he could give me 100 percent of the commitment I needed.  I work pretty hard, and I told him I wanted to work hard and I wanted to put in a lot of time, and he was worried that having a young family and all the responsibility that he has that he wouldn't be able to give me that 100 percent commitment, and I totally understand that.  He has a young family.  I have a young family.  It takes a lot of time.  He's very dedicated to his game.
And he mentioned Chuck, who's been a bit of a mentor to him over the years, so I met with Chuck, talked with him at Firestone, and we started working at the PGA for the first time.  You know, so far I really have enjoyed what we've been working on.

Q.  Are you talking about major changes in your swing?  Is this a process where you're going to have to be patient to try to let some of this stuff kind of kick in a little bit?
LUKE DONALD:  They're pretty different.  It's pretty different in a way, yeah.  It's going to‑‑ you know, I'm a quick learner, though, and I think I should be able to get most of it down by the end of the year.  But it's taking time.  It will take some time.
With Pat, it was a little bit more lateral movement and a little bit more flip with my hands, and now I'm really trying to get the club a little bit deeper and use a bit more turn with my bigger muscles, just take the flip out of it.  So I'm hopefully going to be a bit more consistent tee to green and be able to control the trajectory and the line, as well.
That's the goal, and so far I'm seeing results.  I think it will take some time, but I feel like I'm taking it on board pretty quickly.

Q.  How much of the changes are geared toward length, because didn't you hurt yourself trying to get longer once?
LUKE DONALD:  Yes, but when you try and hit it harder and have flip, your wrist is going to break down.  The goal really has nothing to do with length.  I think overall when I do it correctly, I'll probably hit it a little bit further, I'll be using bigger muscles, but that's not the goal.  The goal is to be more consistent and control the line and trajectory more than distance.

Q.  You know a lot of the courses here in Chicago.  What do you think defines Conway and how it's different and how it prepares for a major championship like this?
LUKE DONALD:  Well, I think it's great in the fact it's a golf club.  There's no carts, no tennis courts.  It's all walking.  It's a great membership, a lot of low single‑figure handicaps.  People are very passionate about their golf here.
What defines it?  Good practice facilities, good variety in golf holes, some long, some short, drivable par‑4, not every par‑3 is 240 yards.  I think there's some good variety here.  There's some holes in the trees.  There's some open kind of prairie‑land looks for this course, and I think Fazio is always good at making a course look good, and certainly on TV I think you'll see that.
MARK STEVENS:  Thanks for your time, Luke.  Best of luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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