Luke Donald Pre-Championship

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 113th U.S. Open. This morning on a nice sunny day at Merion Golf Club, we’re happy to have with us Luke Donald. Luke is playing in his 10th U.S. Open. He played Merion twice last week when it was a little bit drier. Can you talk about the conditions and playing Merion?

 LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I was here Wednesday and Thursday. I got a good look at the course, looked at a lot of the lines off the tees, spent a good six or seven hours on both of those rounds just trying to get a good look at the course.

 Just got here last night and I guess I avoided the bad day yesterday and I’m ready to go see what the course looks like again. I hear it’s pretty wet, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of this place. It has a lot of tradition, this course, and I’m excited to see what it has to offer.

BETH MAJOR: What did you find last week in terms of your game and the course?

LUKE DONALD: It’s different than what we’re used to seeing. It’s a shorter golf course with a lot of variety. The long holes are very long, the short holes are very short. It gives you a lot of opportunities, but there are a few holes you really have to hold on for – they’re very tough, very long and demanding. Some long par‑3s. Obviously the weather is going to dictate a little bit how this course plays. It’s a real shame that we’ve had so much rain. I think that most people would really like to see this course play firm and fast. And I don’t think we’re going to get that this week. But it’s a good challenge, this course. I think if it was firm and fast this course, even despite the length, would hold up just as well as any other U.S. Open course.

Q. Did you come in last night because of the weather situation or is that what you planned to do regardless? And how does rain affect the way that you plan to attack the course?      

LUKE DONALD: My plan was to come in last night, no matter what. Fortunately I was able to get in despite the weather.        

In terms of the rain, I think it just makes everything around the green a little bit more accessible. The greens are going to be holding. You can access some of those tougher pins a little bit easier, even if you miss it in the rough the ball isn’t going to be getting away from you too much with those chips around the green.        

It makes short game a little bit easier around the greens. It makes hitting those wedges and long irons into some of these greens a little bit easier as well. The ball is going to be holding.         

There’s still going to be a premium on hitting fairways and hitting greens. But especially around the greens I think when it’s softer it makes things a little bit easier.

Q. Just in reference to your own hopes here, does it make it less likely – does it make the challenge harder?          

LUKE DONALD: I think in a way the weather brings in a lot more players to have an opportunity. I think it makes the course a little bit easier. It doesn’t play quite as tough. And I think as a top player you want the place to play as tough as it possibly can.        

Will it change my opportunities? I don’t really think so. I think there’s only a couple of holes ‑‑ I probably only hit five drivers out there this week. Looking at the course, 5, 6 and 18, holes where I’d like to get a little bit of roll after my tee shots, because they’re very long and I’m going to have long shots in. I’m going to lose that roll.         

Other than those three holes I don’t think the clubs off tees is going to change for me. And the way I approach it won’t change too much, either. So in terms of my own game I don’t think it affects it that much.

Q. Can you think of another course where you only use five drivers?

LUKE DONALD: Not too many. I tend to use a lot more. I don’t hit the ball as far as many guys, as the top guys, guys that hit it further. Not too many times where I only hit that many or that few.

Q. When was the last time you used a 1‑iron in competition?

LUKE DONALD: I was actually rummaging around some old equipment last week just for fun. I was down in my basement and actually happened to come across a Hogan 1‑iron that I had. I don’t know if it was a good sign or not. I don’t even remember if I ever used that one, to be honest. My first two years on Tour I was with Ben Hogan, played their equipment. And I’m not sure if I ever used that 1‑iron or not. But I don’t remember using the 1‑iron. I think it was more of a 2‑iron or 4‑wood for me.

Q. 2011 and '12 you were No. 1 going into most of the Majors, does it take some of the pressure off maybe not having that big number in front of you this year?          

LUKE DONALD: I mean yes and no. There’s always more attention, more requests of your time and that takes management and that’s tough. But within myself the pressures are just the same. I want to win a Major championship just as badly this year as when I was No. 1. It’s about managing those expectations, managing those feelings and knowing what you have is good enough.

Q. Not to focus on the negative, but this is a tournament you never faired particularly well in. Is this a course basically that you feel sets up for you better than some of the past U.S. Opens?        

LUKE DONALD: I think so. Again, I would like to have seen it firmer. I think wetter, damper conditions bring more of the field in play. But certainly a course where I’m only hitting five drivers, a course where I’m hitting a lot of wedges in my hands, playing to my strengths, where I feel like from a hundred yards in I’m pretty good. This course demands a lot of good wedge play. Obviously you’ve still got to do what’s pretty important in U.S. Opens, hit fairways, hit greens. That will be a big key for me if I want to be successful.

Q. What holes do you hit drivers on?        

LUKE DONALD: 4, 5, 6, 16 and 18 probably, maybe 12.

Q. You played here last week, was there a crowd on the first tee and what’s it like hitting a first tee shot so close to the folks having lunch?

LUKE DONALD: There was Dolly, who was helping serve lunch and she’s been here about 35 years. And Scott Nye, the pro, came around and walked a few holes. No, it was really very quiet.

I had Jack, a local guy that was here for 30 years was on the bag. And my coach, Pat, was with me. It was nice to get a little work done without the crowds.

Q. Just a follow‑up, what do you think it will be like hitting that first tee shot with people so close?

LUKE DONALD: It’s different in a way. People will be more on our level. Usually you see a first tee shot on a Major championship, it’s surrounded by bleachers. Here it’s a row of people to the right side of the tee, and some people in the clubhouse. So it will be different. It will be a bit more like a normal event, just that the crowds will be a little bit deeper.

Q. Before the rain everybody assumed this place would take the driver out of a lot of guys hands. Has that changed, is a 3‑wood going to be the dominant club off the tee for these guys?

LUKE DONALD: I don’t think the game plan will change that much. Again, there are certain long holes that I think the majority of the field will hit driver. If they were going between driver or 3‑wood, maybe they’re heading toward driver. On the short holes there’s no room to hit driver. You could take it on, but I’m not sure over four days it’s going to work out. A lot of guys will still maintain their game plan of trying to hit fairways. It’s still a U.S. Open. Obviously we saw in wetter conditions that you can go low, Rory proved that a couple of years ago.

But there will still be – most people will be trying to hit fairways, trying to hit greens. It’s still a U.S. Open. It’s still tough. The rough is nasty. You want to stay away from it.

But softer greens, it just makes everything a little bit more attackable. Firm, fast greens are a golf course’s best defense.

Q. It’s been so long since there’s been a major here at Merion, how much do you appreciate the history of this course and what it represents for golf?

LUKE DONALD: I think it’s amazing to get a U.S. Open here in this day and age. Not the course, per se, but just the space that they have. Obviously picking U.S. Open sites is very much determined now on space and what you can have for corporate hospitality and that stuff. So it’s amazing that they’ve been able to work it in.

I think this course has tremendous history, obviously going back to Bobby Jones completing the Gland Slam back on the 11th hole in 1930, I believe. It was a great Major.         

The duel as well, the one between Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. It has a cool history. Just very interesting and very cool to walk around this place last week and kind of take everything in. I think the design is very good. They’ve used the land tremendously. Even just walking up 18, obviously, there’s not too much moments in golf as iconic as Hogan and that 1‑iron he hit on 18, with the plaque there, which is pretty cool to see.

Q. You touched on your relatively poor record in U.S. Opens, just wondering what you put that down to? Can you put your finger on why that is?

LUKE DONALD: Again, I think in U.S. Opens usually success comes from hitting a lot of fairways and hitting a lot of greens. And I think my game is more from the hole backwards. I’ve always kind of worked that way.

This year I’ve made a little bit more of a conscious effort to try and change that, to get a little bit more control, to work some things around, spending a little bit more time on the range working on really solidifying a few things. And it hasn’t happened yet, but statistics will show I’ve improved in those areas. And I’ll be starting to hit more greens, having more control, more control of my ball flight. And that’s what you need out here to be successful.

Q. You mentioned trying to stay out of the rough. Can you share your impressions from how it was last week and what you expect from it after it’s had five inches of rain?

LUKE DONALD: It was very – it was pretty thick and gnarly last week. I don’t think I got one lie in the rough where I could get more of a 7‑ or 8‑iron out of it. With the rain we’ve had, I believe the greens staff haven’t been able to cut it because of all the rain we’ve had. I’m sure it’s longer, thicker. Those 7 or 8‑irons are going to become wedges.

So it’s going to be important to keep it in the fairway because I don’t think you’re going to be able to get to the green from there.

BETH MAJOR: Thank you so much for joining us. We wish you well this week.

 

BETH MAJOR:  Welcome to the 113th U.S. Open.  This morning on a nice sunny day at Merion Golf Club.  We're happy to have with us Luke Donald.  Luke is playing in his 10th U.S. Open.  He played Merion twice last week and it was a little bit drier.  Can you talk about the conditions and playing Merion.

            LUKE DONALD:  Yeah, I was here Wednesday and Thursday.  I got a good look at the course, looked at a lot of the lines off the tees, spent a good six or seven hours on both of those rounds just trying to get a good look at the course.

            Just got here last night and I guess I avoided the bad day yesterday and I'm ready to go see what the course looks like again.  I hear it's pretty wet, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of this place.  It has a lot of tradition, this course, and I'm excited to see what it has to offer.

            BETH MAJOR:  What did you find last week in terms of your game and the course.

            LUKE DONALD:  It's different than what we're used to seeing.  A shorter golf course.  A lot of variety.  The long holes are very long, the short holes are very short.  It gives you a lot of opportunities, but there's a few holes you really have to hold on for ‑‑ they're very tough, very long and demanding.  Some long par‑3s.  Obviously the weather is going to dictate a little bit how this course plays.  It's a real shame that we've had so much rain.  I think that most people would really like to see this course play firm and fast.  And I don't think we're going to get that this week.  But it's a good challenge, this course.  I think if it was firm and fast this course, even despite the length, would hold up just as well as any other U.S. Open course.

 

            Q.  Did you come in last night because of the weather situation or is that what you planned to do regardless?  And how does rain affect the way that you plan to attack the course?

            LUKE DONALD:  My plan was to come in last night, no matter what.  Fortunately I was able to get in despite the weather.

            In terms of the rain, I think it just makes everything around the green a little bit more accessible.  The greens are going to be holding.  You can access some of those tougher pins a little bit easier, even if you miss it in the rough the ball isn't going to be getting away from you too much with those chips around the green.

            It makes short game a little bit easier around the greens.  It makes hitting those wedges and long irons into some of these greens a little bit easier as well.  The ball is going to be holding.

            There's still going to be a premium on hitting fairways and hitting greens.  But especially around the greens I think when it's softer it makes things a little bit easier.

 

            Q.  Just in reference to your own hopes here, does it make it less likely ‑‑ does it make the challenge harder?

            LUKE DONALD:  I think in a way the weather brings in a lot more players to have an opportunity.  I think it makes the course a little bit easier.  It doesn't play quite as tough.  And I think as a top player you want the place to play as tough as it possibly can.

            Will it change my opportunities?  I don't really think so.  I think there's only a couple of holes ‑‑ I probably only hit five drivers out there this week.  Looking at the course, 5, 6 and 18, holes where I'd like to get a little bit of roll after my tee shots, because they're very long and I'm going to have long shots in.  I'm going to lose that roll.

            Other than those three holes I don't think the clubs off tees is going to change for me.  And the way I approach it won't change too much, either.

            So in terms of my own game I don't think it affects it that much.

 

            Q.  Can you think of another course where you only use five drivers?

            LUKE DONALD:  Not too many.  I tend to use a lot more.  I don't hit the ball as far as many guys, as the top guys, guys that hit it further.  Not too many times where I only hit that many or that few.

 

            Q.  When was the last time you used a 1‑iron in competition?

            LUKE DONALD:  I was actually rummaging around some old equipment last week just for fun.  I was down in my basement and actually happened to come across a Hogan 1‑iron that I had.  I don't know if it was a good sign or not.  I don't even remember if I ever used that one, to be honest.  My first two years on Tour I was with Ben Hogan, played their equipment.  And I'm not sure if I ever used that 1‑iron or not.  But I don't remember using the 1‑iron.  I think it was more of a 2‑iron or 4‑wood for me.

 

            Q.  2011, 12 you were No. 1 going into most of the Majors, does it take some of the pressure off maybe not having that big number in front of you this year?

            LUKE DONALD:  I mean yes and no.  There's always more attention, more requests of your time and that takes management and that's tough.  But within myself the pressures are just the same.  I want to win a Major championship just as badly this year as when I was No. 1.  It's about managing those expectations, managing those feelings and knowing what you have is good enough.

 

            Q.  Not to focus on the negative, but this is a tournament you never faired particularly well in.  Is this a course basically that you feel sets up for you better than some of the past U.S. Opens?

            LUKE DONALD:  I think so.  Again, I would like to have seen it firmer.  I think wetter, damper conditions bring more of the field in play.  But certainly a course where I'm only hitting five drivers, a course where I'm hitting a lot of wedges in my hands, playing to my strengths, where I feel like from a hundred yards in I'm pretty good.  This course demands a lot of good wedge play.  Obviously you've still got to do what's pretty important in U.S. Opens, hit fairways, hit greens.  That will be a big key for me if I want to be successful.

 

            Q.  What holes do you hit drivers on?

            LUKE DONALD:  4, 5, 6, 16 and 18 probably, maybe 12.

 

            Q.  You played here last week, was there a crowd on the first tee and what's it like hitting a first tee shot so close to the folks having lunch?

            LUKE DONALD:  There was Dolly, who was helping serve lunch and she's been here about 35 years.  And Scott and I, the pro, came around and walked a few holes.  No, it was really very quiet.

            I had Jack, a local guy that was here for 30 years was on the bag.  And my coach, Pat, was with me.  It was nice to get a little work done without the crowds.

 

            Q.  Just a follow‑up, what do you think it will be like hitting that first tee shot with people so close?

            LUKE DONALD:  It's different in a way.  People will be more on our level.  Usually you see a first tee shot on a Major championship, it's surrounded by bleachers.  Here it's a row of people to the right side of the tee, and some people in the clubhouse.  So it will be different.  It will be a bit more like a normal event, just that the crowds will be a little bit deeper.

 

            Q.  Before the rain everybody assumed this place would take the driver out of a lot of guys hands.  Has that changed, is a 3‑wood going to be the dominant club off the tee for these guys?

            LUKE DONALD:  I don't think the game plan will change that much.  Again, there are certain long holes that I think the majority of the field will hit driver.  If they were going between driver or 3‑wood, maybe they're heading toward driver.  The short holes there's no room to hit driver.  You could take it on, but I'm not sure over four days it's going to work out.  A lot of guys will still maintain their game plan of trying to hit fairways.  It's still a U.S. Open.  Obviously we saw in wetter conditions that you can go low, Rory proved that a couple of years ago.

            But there will still be ‑‑ most people will be trying to hit fairways, trying to hit greens.  It's still a U.S. Open.  It's still tough.  The rough is nasty.  You want to stay away from it.

            But softer greens, it just makes everything a little bit more attackable.  Firm, fast greens is a golf course's best defense.

 

            Q.  It's been so long since there's been a Major here at Merion, how much do you appreciate the history of this course and what it represents for golf?

            LUKE DONALD:  I think it's amazing to get a U.S. Open here in this day and age.  Not the course, per se, but just the space that they have.  Obviously picking U.S. Open sites is very much determined now on space and what you can have for corporate hospitality and that stuff.  So it's amazing that they've been able to work it in.

            I think this course has tremendous history, obviously going back to Bobby Jones completing the Gland Slam back on the 11th hole in 1930, I believe.  It was a great Major.

            The duel as well, the one between Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.  It has a cool history.  Just very interesting and very cool to walk around this place last week and kind of take everything in.  I think the design is very good.  They've used the land tremendously.  Even just walking up 18, obviously, there's not too much moments in golf as iconic as Hogan and that 1‑iron he hit on 18, with the plaque there, which is pretty cool to see.

 

            Q.  You touched on your relatively poor record in U.S. Opens, just wondering what you put that down to?  Can you put your finger on why that is?

            LUKE DONALD:  Again, I think in U.S. Opens usually success comes from hitting a lot of fairways and hitting a lot of greens.  And I think my game is more from the hole backwards.  I've always kind of worked that way.

            This year I've made a little bit more of a conscious effort to try and change that, to get a little bit more control, to work some things around, spending a little bit more time on the range working on really solidifying a few things.  And it hasn't happened yet, but statistics will show I've improved in those areas.  And I'll be starting to hit more greens, having more control, more control of my ball flight.  And that's what you need out here to be successful.

 

            Q.  You mentioned trying to stay out of the rough.  Can you share your impressions from how it was last week and what you expect from it after it's had five inches of rain?

            LUKE DONALD:  It was very ‑‑ it was pretty thick and gnarly last week.  I don't think I got one lie in the rough where I could get more of a 7‑ or 8‑iron out of it.  With the rain we've had, I believe the greens staff haven't been able to cut it because of all the rain we've had.  I'm sure it's longer, thicker.  Those 7 or 8‑irons are going to become wedges.

            So it's going to be important to keep it in the fairway because I don't think you're going to be able to get to the green from there.

            BETH MAJOR:  Thank you so much for joining us.  We wish you well this week.

Current Leaders
PosPlayerTodayThruTotal
1ROSE, J.EF+1
T2DAY, J.+1F+3
T2MICKELSON, P.+4F+3
T4DUFNER, J.-3F+5
T4ELS, E.-1F+5
T4HORSCHEL, B.+4F+5
T4MAHAN, H.+5F+5
T8DONALD, L.+5F+6
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