Luke Donald (pre-championship)
BETH MAJOR: We would like to welcome world No. 1 player, Luke Donald, to the 112th U.S. Open here at The Olympic Club.
He has victories this year at the Transitions Championship and the BMW PGA Championship. Luke, you're playing in your ninth U.S. Open, can you talk about your preparations coming into The Open and preparing for Olympic Club this week?
LUKE DONALD: Well, I've been preparing very similar to how I would prepare for any Major. Just a slight difference, obviously I don't have any previous experience at this golf course. But I heard a lot about it. I arrived here on Saturday, got a good look at the course Saturday. I played a full 18 on Sunday. And then played nine today and nine tomorrow.
But been working diligently and hard with my coach and I think I've been preparing very well, which you need to do at Majors.
Hopefully I think by Thursday I'll be ready to go.
BETH MAJOR: You said you've heard quite a bit about Olympic Club before you arrived, since you've been here has what you've heard proven to be true? What have you found out there?
LUKE DONALD: Yeah, it's a tough track. This is a U.S. Open course. U.S. Opens are tough. It challenges every part of your game from the first tee shot to when you walk off 18. It's a grind. Even the easy holes, there's always trouble lurking. And you've just got to play solid golf.
I think out of all the Major Championships, this is the toughest test in a way. Just because it's set up that way. Some other Majors give you an opportunity, but most of the time there's always a few exceptions at the U.S. Open, last year being one of them. But most of the time par is a good score and it's a grind out there. They make it tough on us.
BETH MAJOR: Thanks very much. We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Do you feel that the U.S. Open is the Major that most suits you and also around this place it seems like in the past the guy that's made a lot of six to eight footers for par has prevailed. How do you feel about the way this course is setup?
LUKE DONALD: Well I think that to the last part of your question, the six to eight footers, I'm not sure that will be quite as relevant this year. This year we're obviously playing bent greens. In the past I believe they were poa annua. Poa annua is very tough when it comes to short putts. Especially on slopey, fast greens. Bent greens, it's a little easier. The greens are going to be fast, but they're one of the best surfaces I've seen. They're extremely pure and extremely true.
So I think that in terms of six to eight footers, those aren't going to be the toughest putts. It's finding the right speed on the longer putts and seeing the break when you're a little bit further away from the hole.
In terms of whether this sets up for me, I suppose so. I think especially in the last couple years I've really progressed in terms of getting my ball striking back to a more consistent level. If you had asked me this question a few years ago, probably not. I was a little bit too erratic off the tee. And you can't do that at a U.S. Open. You just have to keep it in play, hit a lot of greens, and obviously when you're out of position, miss it to the wrong spots and be smart about your game. And obviously I feel like I am good at plodding my way around a golf course. And I suppose at a U.S. Open you have to plod away even more than probably the other Majors.
Q. You liked how demanding Wentworth was, but is this up a couple of notches, another stratosphere?
LUKE DONALD: It's a different test. Yeah. It's very tough.
Those first six holes, I mean everything that's been said about them, it's true. It's a very tough start. It doesn't give you a lot over those first few holes. If you drive it in the fairway on the back side or from 7 onwards you can create a few opportunities and make some birdies. But obviously right now the rough is reasonably tough. It gives you some opportunities. The rough around the greens is extremely penal. But the greens are better surface from what I've been told from other people who played here a long time ago, the last time it was here.
But it is a challenge. You're not going to be able to fluke it around this course. And you've just got to stand up there and play really well.
Q. What do you think of 18 as a finishing hole and are you comfortable hitting both draws and fades off the tees into these par‑4s and fives?
LUKE DONALD: I've always been a big fan of short par‑4s with small greens. For 18, I think the finish is actually going to bring some excitement in a way. It does offer some opportunities. Sixteen is no give away. If you get it in the fairway off the tee shot, you're maybe going to have a chance at birdie. If not, you're looking at a possible six.
Seventeen is reachable and offers an opportunity too, even though that's the most severe green there is on the golf course.
And 18 obviously is a short hole, so again it's a 4‑iron or 5‑iron off the tee and a 9‑iron into the green. So I think it's going to make for an exciting finish. And I've never really had any issues with short par‑4s, even if they're 18.
In terms of drawing, fading, certainly the guy that can control the fade around this course is going to have a slight advantage. This is a course where there's quite a few doglegs that go left‑to‑right. A lot of the greens slope from right‑to‑left where you're trying to hold it into the green. There's not too many tee shots you need to hit too many draws off, to be honest with you. One or two maybe. Three maybe.
But I think the guy who can consistently control that left‑to‑right shot will fair a little bit better this week.
Q. What are your thoughts on playing with Lee and Rory in the first two rounds?
LUKE DONALD: As a few guys have probably said, it is what it is. I mean, it wasn't that surprising to me. It's been done quite a few times. Rory and Lee and I have played together quite a few times over the past year or two. We're very used to it. I certainly don't think it's the most recognizable group. We all know who that is. But we get along fine, we played together a bunch of times, it's nothing new. I don't see it being a distraction or a benefit. Just, it's just one of those groups that we're used to.
Q. To follow‑up, Rory's getting his own bobble head tonight. You're ranked No. 1. He's No. 2. What do you do to get your own bobble head?
LUKE DONALD: Probably win a U.S. Open by eight shots. Or at least by one.
Q. What is the biggest advantage of being ranked No. 1? You don't wear a blue ribbon around and that, but are there any disadvantages to being ranked No. 1?
LUKE DONALD: There really aren't too many advantages. Other than me personally using all the experiences that the tournaments that I've won that got me to No. 1, just using that confidence in my golf game. That's the benefit, really.
It doesn't really, whether I'm ranked No. 1 or ranked No. 10 or 20 or 100, it doesn't change the way I prepare, the way I practice, the focus for me is to continually try and improve and get better in all facets of my game and that has no relevance to where my World Ranking is. But the only other slight distraction, which is less so for me because I kind of go under the radar, is as a No. 1 ranked player is that there's more, a little bit more attention, a little bit more expectation.
Q. You've mentioned just how tough the golf course is and I guess that's universally accepted, but does it fit your eye when you've seen it for the first time? Do you feel comfortable on those tees? I know you may have answered that in part with the cuts and the draws that you have to hit. But what do you feel about it?
LUKE DONALD: I feel that most of the tee shots out there fit reasonably well with my eye. I feel more comfortable and more in control of the ball if I'm hitting a slight fade.
The draw, over the last past couple years has been a tougher shot for me to hit consistently and start on the right line. The fade is a little bit easier shot. I think that's probably the same for the majority of the players. So as this course demands a few more of those, I feel like it suits my eye reasonably well.
Q. You played yesterday and again today, is there any noticeable difference today as compared to yesterday in terms of drying out?
LUKE DONALD: I played Sunday, I didn't play yesterday, but the fairways seem a little bit more running. The greens, I feel like are holding. I think the USGA are very cognizant of keeping them where they have them under control. They're firm, but they're not unmanageable right now. They're being watered plenty. But they're going to get it to a point where they can let it get really firm and fast over the weekend, which I think all Major Championships and big events, that's what your goal is.
Q. Does your relatively poor U.S. Open record serve as any extra motivation this week?
LUKE DONALD: Not really. I'm not really concentrating on the past. I'm more focused on now and what I can do in the future. You try and learn from those past experiences a little bit, but mostly I'm just focused on now and moving forward and I'm obviously in a good place where I am right now with my game. I've been winning pretty consistently over the last couple years and I've just got to bring that to this level.
Q. On behalf of one or two members of the English press, like myself, do you sense how much the English public back home are desperate for a Major winner? Do you think you can perhaps be that man? And of course I don't know if you noticed it's been the Queen's Jubilee back home. I wondered if that might give you any extra inspiration, perhaps give Her Majesty a Major title.
LUKE DONALD: Not sure the Queen will be watching, but who knows. (Laughter.)
If she is, hopefully I'm one of her favorites. But, yeah, of course. It's been awhile since we have had an English winner in a Major Championship. English loves their golf, you can see that passion and support they had for me and some of the other English players at Wentworth a few weeks ago. They're very passionate about it and of course they want us to succeed and hopefully I'll have a good chance to do that this week.
Q. Last year when you showed up at Congressional you were definitely one of the favorites for the U.S. Open. You didn't play very well. But was a function of that the fact that that course really wasn't what you were expecting or it wasn't what most people were expecting it to be as in terms of a U.S. Open setup?
LUKE DONALD: Well, somewhat. There's a couple factors. I think, one, I mismanaged my schedule a little bit leading up to the U.S. Open. I played a little bit too much. I was a little run down a few weeks before and was just trying to play catch up with my health. I felt a little bit not quite there a hundred percent in terms of health wise.
But also with the course playing a bit softer, a little bit wetter, it played quite long. And I think that that's always going to be a little bit tougher for me. I would rather it was firm and fast and running, where I'm not losing too much advantage off the tee.
Q. What was the health issue? Just worn down?
LUKE DONALD: I had strep throat about three weeks before, four weeks before the Match Play in Spain. And then I played Wentworth, won there, and went straight over to play Memorial. And it was just ‑‑ I probably just played one too many tournaments in that stretch.
Q. I read a quote that Dave Alred wanted you to become an assassin when you took him on. Did you think you already were or did you have to change?
LUKE DONALD: No, I think that he is slowly starting to change me a little bit. It's very hard to go against your natural traits and your natural characteristics and I think Dave has helped me in that way. Just to kind of be a little bit more tunnel vision, a little bit looking at what I want to achieve and going about it in a systematic way. I suppose that's where the assassin comes in. Just being very single minded about how I do things and knowing that what I'm doing is the right way to get better and hopefully turn that into wins.
BETH MAJOR: Thank you all very much. Luke, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it, we wish you well this week.