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 »  Home  »  Magazine Departments  »  Player Profiles  »  Luke Donald at PGA TOUR Honda Classic
Luke Donald at PGA TOUR Honda Classic
By Tom Landers | Published  03/14/2006 | Player Profiles | Unrated
Luke Donald at PGA TOUR Honda Classic


Editor's note:
Luke Donald won the Honda Classic on Sunday, his second win in his 113th career PGA Tour start. Donald, 28, also has two international victories, but this was his first since 2004. He also becomes the fourth winner in his 20s on the PGA Tour this year, joining J.B. Holmes, Rory Sabbatini and Geoff Ogilvy.

[Moderator]: Well, Luke, thank you for joining us as the winner of the 2006 Honda Classic. Maybe just give us a quick wrap of your day and then we'll talk about your week and then we'll get some questions.

LUKE DONALD: Well, obviously I'm very excited right now. Any time you win on the PGA Tour, it's a tremendous feat, and it's nice to be back in the winner's circle on this tour again after, you know, three-, four-year break, I suppose.

So I'm very excited right now. I think I was pretty proud of the way I finished today and finished the job off. It was a lot of emotions out kind of in the middle, but I held it together. Any time you finish with a birdie like that and a great shot, it means a lot to a golfer.

Q.: You talked a little about your experience of having the 54-hole lead at The Players last year, what did you do in this round that you or that you were able to avoid in this round or do positively in this round, as opposed to last year?

LUKE DONALD: I don't think I got ahead of myself today. I didn't look at leaderboards until, maybe, I saw one on 14, that was the first time I saw a leaderboard. I was just determined to just play my own game today and not worry about what anyone else was doing, not worry about if I made bogey, just, you know, next shot and just carry on.

I think The Players Championship, it's obviously a big event, but maybe I got a little bit caught up in looking at leaderboards and that changes your expectations.

Q.: What is your local residence status here? You have a home, you belong to a local club?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I'm a member of the Bear's Club. I come down here and winter -- well, I come here in the winter. I'm currently trying to get Florida residency.

Q.: Do you have a home in Palm Beach Gardens?

LUKE DONALD: Yes.

Q.: Are you surprised that you won without a birdie on any of the par 5s?

LUKE DONALD: A little bit. You know, when I parred 17, I thought, wow, you know, I missed a few chances on those par 5s. But, you know, those holes are tough. Even though you'd like to make some birdies, you look at what Billy Mayfair did on 6, he was right on front of the green and two and made 6. On 12 he was right in front of the green in two and made 6.

It's tricky. Those pins are tricky. It's disappointing not to make some birdies, but luckily it didn't cost me and I played the other holes pretty well.

Q.: Were there any pep talks, you had a 3-putt on 6 for par, 3-putt on 7, and then you missed a short one on 10; were there any pep talks you gave yourself after that, because you played pretty good.

LUKE DONALD: Again, just, regroup, really. Just not worry about that, don't think about the past, just play every shot as it comes and play the golf that I know I can play and that was it, really.

Q.: So much had been made about the last six holes being what's going to determine the tournament, and you wound up playing them at 3-under, that's quite an accomplishment.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I'm very proud of the way I finished, especially after missing a few putts in a row to kind of regroup and have the confidence to go on and make some putts. I think I officially 1-putted the last six greens.

So, you know, that was encouraging for me and I think I've always worked on trying to finish strong and it's nice to do it on Sunday.

Q.: Finishing strong, can you talk about the last full shot in at 18, everything is compressed into that last moment, that last shot, can you talk about your emotions and what it was like to hit that shot?

LUKE DONALD: Well, those kind of times, you kind of go back to trusting all the practice you've done and trusting your swing that it's good enough to hold up under pressure.

Luckily, I had a pretty good yardage. I was a little bit -- when I got to the ball, there was a bit of mud on it, which was strange. I had not had mud all week, and I must have just landed in the upslope where it was a little bit softer. I was just hoping mud didn't affect the ball at all. Luckily, it flew perfectly. And I thought, as I had a good yardage, that I would go straight at the pin.

Q.: Were you nervous or did you have a specific swing thought before you hit that?

LUKE DONALD: I just thought about swinging my arms, making sure I didn't kind of quit on the shot, getting aggressive with it. Again, it was a good yardage so I could go at the shot as hard as I wanted and I knew it wouldn't be too long. And in that way, I was a little bit lucky.

Q.: Can you talk about the save on 16; that was a huge key to hanging on.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I made a great save on 15 and 16, and that was definitely a key to finishing so strong. I think 16, I hit a pretty good drive. It just was a yard from being perfect, it just got caught up right on the edge of the bunker in some -- the only thick rough that's on the golf course I think are on the sides of the bunker. So I had no shot but to lay it up to a good yardage. I hit a pretty good third shot, just didn't quite get back to the pin. You know, I had a good read on the putt, and it was encouraging to know that after missing some early on that I had, I guess, the heart to go up and hole that one.

Q.: Just one more thing on that, after you made the pass, how sweet is it to just watch that?

LUKE DONALD: Well, it looked good in the air, and you know, that's a nice feeling. Obviously good in the air isn't always a good shot where it finishes. But once I heard the crowd start roaring, it got louder and louder and I just knew it was pretty close. That's a great feeling when you know you've got two putts from a very short distance rather than a 40-footer for the win. That felt pretty good.

Q.: The ball was behind the hole, when you were walking up, did it wind up being closer than you thought it was?

LUKE DONALD: I knew it would probably be within ten feet, just depending on the crowd's reaction. But it was a little bit closer than that, it was about four or five feet.

Q.: Are you surprised when you got up there and you were able to see it was that close?

LUKE DONALD: Again, from the crowd I thought it was pretty close, so I wasn't totally surprised. So it was definitely nice to see.

Q.: Growing up in England, did you aspire to play this tour?

LUKE DONALD: Well, you know, when I was 19 years old, I decided to come over here to the collegiate system here. I went to Northwestern for four years and I was very successful over here as a college player. Just felt like this was where my game was suited to the kind of golf styles over here. I tried to get my Tour card and I got it on my first try. I guess the rest it history.

But I still enjoy going back and playing in Europe. I have a European Tour card, as well, and I've played a number of events over there last year and this year I will, as well. I seem to enjoy it over here, as well.

Q.: Can you compare the satisfaction of this win compared to Southern Farm Bureau when you had the fourth round rained out?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, very different. Obviously winning a 54-hole event, you don't expect to win that way. It's a strange feeling when they tell you you've won, even though you haven't played the fourth round. This one, obviously, is more rewarding I think with all of the hard work I've put in the last couple of years, and to finish that strongly and to finish it off in style means a lot to me.

Q.: How much did your Ryder Cup experience help you?

LUKE DONALD: I think anything like that helps. You know, those kind of situations, the Ryder Cup was some of the most pressure I had ever felt. And any time you can play in that pressure and experience it and come out on the other side, it's good for you, good for you as a player, and you definitely draw off that kind of experiences, you know, when the pressure is on.

Q.: Your previous win, did they come into the room and say that you had won, how were you told that you had won?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, we were all in the locker room and it just kept raining and raining and raining. You know, they finally came in with a decision and they said, you know, the course is far too wet, we just can't play and that's it. "Luke Donald is the winner." (Laughter). So I was happy.

Q.: There's a lot of great places to live down here, when you were looking for a place, what made you choose this area specifically?

LUKE DONALD: I have a friend of mine, Eric Gleacher, who is a big Northwestern alum, and I used to come down here before I had a place and stay with him and practice a little bit during the winter, just to get out of the Chicago cold. I just like this area. There's a number of players here that on the Tour that play in this area. Jack Nicklaus, with my connection with RBS, was generous enough in offering me a membership at the Bear's Club. There were a lot of factors, really. I just thought it was a nice place. It's great weather, great golf courses and there's good competition to play with here.

Q.: What are your thoughts on this tournament moving across the street next year?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I guess I'm disappointed in a way, because you know, this course is quite severe; the greens are very severe and you have to be very accurate. That's why I wanted to come and play here. Certain players don't like playing here because they think it's a bit gimmicky, I suppose. But still, you have to hit good shot. You just can't get away with loose shots at all around here. That's why I wanted to play here. But I've never played across the street where it's going. We'll have to see what it's like.

Q.: You've won twice here now, you've won a couple of European Tour events, you've won a World Golf Championships with Paul [Casey] and a Ryder Cup and everything, is the next obvious step a major championship, and do you feel like you've got the game right now to do that?

LUKE DONALD: The next step is winning majors and competing and having good chances to win majors. That was one of my goals last year was to go into Sunday in at least two majors with a chance to win. I didn't do it, but, you know, I wouldn't say I had a chance to win at The Masters, even though I finished third, but that was encouraging.

The others, while although I made the cut, was a little bit disappointing. The next goal is to win the majors. Do I think I can win majors? Absolutely. I think I have a great game for majors. I'm very steady, and that's the main reason why I think if I keep playing the way I'm playing, there's no reason why I can't strive to be the best player in the world. If I can compete and win majors, then surely I can be the best player in the world.

Q.: In the three-and-a-half-year gap between Southern Farm Bureau and now, had there started to be any sort of rumbling or whatever from the British media about when you are going to win again on this tour?

LUKE DONALD: A little bit. The British media are that way a little bit. You know, they really support you when you're doing well, but sometimes they can be hard on you when you're not playing so great. But the British media are always looking for that next star to come up and be I guess a great, what's the word, icon, for England or whatever.

You know, I don't really pay too much attention. I'm just trying to go out there and do the best I can. I feel like I'm on the right track to meet my goals and keep improving.

Q.: What's the best and worst thing of having your brother on your bag?

LUKE DONALD: At first we spent way too much time together. It was tough. We were rooming together on the road and we live together on our off-weeks, and we kind of got to the point where we just wanted to strangle each other. But, you know, we've worked that all out now and we get on great, really. We've never really been brothers that argue a lot. Obviously if that was the case, we wouldn't work together. But there's a lot of good things. I think living so far away from home and having a family member with you is a great support. You know, he does a great job.

Q.: What's his personality like for you? Is he joking; is he serious?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I try to get him to be a bit more joking. We're very similar. We're quite calm and kind of collected and we go about our business. There's times when I want him to kind of joke around and chitchat to me a bit more. But he's definitely improving in that way, and, you know, making things feel a bit more lighthearted on the golf course, which helps out there. I think any time you take it too seriously and press too much, you're just not going to be very successful at this game.

Q.: What part does winning this Target World Challenge play into some of the momentum you may be building now? That was a big field, big paycheck.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, that was a little bit different. I came from behind. I think I was eight shots behind to win that one. You know, those kind of wins give you a huge boost of confidence. It's almost a shame that it was the end of the year and I was taking four or five weeks off. I didn't kind of have that momentum going forward. But any time you can win, especially against a field of that strength, it just proves something to yourself.

This was a little different. It was leading from the front and almost was more encouraging for myself, just to know that I could hang on from the front as well.

Q.: How tough is it to be thought of as the next possible icon in British golf when the previous one is Nick Faldo? Do you always get compared to him a lot?

LUKE DONALD: Well, if I'm compared with him, then I think I'm doing a good job. He was obviously the best player in the world for a number of years. He just worked so hard at his golf to the point where he was so confident about it. You know, I'm hopefully going to get close to that.

Q.: Has he helped you in any way?

LUKE DONALD: Not so much. I mean, I've played a few practice rounds with him. I think he just let's me get on with it.

Q.: Is England kind of restless for the next Faldo? Has that been a situation?

LUKE DONALD: A little bit. I think they are restless for a major winner, that's for sure. I'm going to try and do my best to remedy that.

Q.: How do you look at this second victory as far as your career is concerned? What does this mean for your career?

LUKE DONALD: This is a big step. I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. Any time you can win, especially out here on the PGA Tour, it's a huge boost of confidence. Hopefully this will just keep the momentum going. It's nice to win early, too, in the year. That kind of sets up the year perfectly. Now I can go out there with not too many worries, just go out and practice hard and up my goals.

Q.: You say you would like to be the best player in the world, what would you describe the gap now, would you regard Tiger [Woods] as the best player in the world...

LUKE DONALD: Yeah.

Q.: ...So to become the best player in the world, do you have to get better than Tiger in everything?

LUKE DONALD: I think you have to start believing that you're the best player in the world. That's the first step. You know, can I beat Tiger on any given round? Sure. So why can't I beat him during a tournament, you know. You've just got to kind of ... I feel like if I play my golf, just a satisfactory Luke Donald style, that should be good enough to compete every week no matter what Tiger does. You see Tiger and he's a phenomenal player.

But you see a lot of players when they get close to him, they seem to either give it to him or he doesn't have to do too much special; he just knows that his golf is going to be good enough to get it done. Sometimes he let's the other players feel like they have to do more. I think if you can kind of get into the mentality that you don't have to do any more, you just do what you know to do. Hopefully that will keep me going to get up to Tiger's level. I don't think I need to practice that much harder. I think I've got to change my mentality.

Q.: I don't think the numbers have been officially crunched, but I believe you're going to move up to No. 10 in the World Ranking, how much of an accomplishment or goal is that?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, that was a goal last year and I fell just short. I got to 11 I think at one point last year. You know, top-10 player in the world, it sounds pretty good, but again, I want to go further.

Q.: Do you think getting physically as big as Tiger would be important for you?

LUKE DONALD: I don't think so. I think you keep trying to work out and maintain and get the right muscles working. You know, bulking up for me I don't think is much of an option. I think I'm hitting the ball far enough where I can compete. Certain courses, if you can hit it as far as Tiger or J.B. Holmes or Bubba Watson, it's a big advantage. But a course like this where you have to think around the course a little bit more, then I feel like I can hold my own.

Q.: So do you hit the practice tee at the Bear's Club tomorrow morning or are you going to give yourself a day off?

LUKE DONALD: I am actually playing the Seminole Pro-Am. We'll see how I feel tomorrow morning, though.

Q.: Besides yourself, Holmes and [Geoff] Ogilvy and [Camilo] Villegas, talk about the under-30 crowd, how they have come out on the PGA Tour this year?

LUKE DONALD: And that's good for the game. I think it brings more excitement to the PGA TOUR, and to what it's trying to do to market golf as a brand.

You know, it's great that you've got these I guess young guns or under30 guys challenging Tiger. You know, people love to watch that.

Q.: What's the celebration going to be like tonight?

LUKE DONALD: Well, it's nice to be at home. I don't have to fly anywhere. So I'm going to go home and I've got some friends here and I'm sure we'll maybe have a drink or two.

Q.: And your brother's name?

LUKE DONALD: Christian.

Q.: Is he older or younger?

LUKE DONALD: Six years older.

Q.: What kind of player is he?

LUKE DONALD: He was a teaching head professional club pro, so he's pretty good. He's a little rusty. He doesn't get to play that much nowadays.

Transcript provided by ASAP Sports