Golf Magazine No. 1 Interview: Luke Donald

Luke Donald, No. 1 Issue
James Cheadle
"There are ways to make birdies other than hitting 350-yard drives."

Was your WGC-Accenture Match Play victory a watershed?
It seems to have been a huge moment. It gave me a confidence boost, because the longer you go without winning, the more doubts you have. I knew I had the ability to do it, but actually doing it is different.

Do you think you would have won more tournaments if there were more match-play events?
Yeah, if you look back at Ryder Cups and Walker Cups, I have a great record. I have always thrived when it's one against one. Dave [Alred, his mental-game coach] is always trying to get me to feel like that in stroke-play events. But it's tough because it's a different mentality. If you make a triple bogey in match play, it doesn't really matter. If you do that in stroke play, you tumble down the leaderboard. It would certainly be fun to break up the year with a few more match-play events.

Do you think you intimidate opponents in match play?
I hope so. Hopefully I'm starting to become intimidating. That would be a good thing.

Does the form you've been in for the past year give you some insight into what it was like for Tiger in his prime?
I suppose so. It certainly raises your confidence. I have a long way to go to get to all of the accomplishments that Tiger has been able to do. Winning 80-plus tournaments around the world, and all of those majors [14], is pretty amazing. But being in contention week in and week out, you start to expect it a little bit more, which I'm sure Tiger did in his prime, too.

What do you make of Tiger's decline?
Golf is like that. It's very mental and physical. When one of those goes, it becomes tough. He has obviously struggled with some personal issues and it's hard to get that out of your mind at times. He took a long break from the game to try to change a few things and it hasn't worked out for him. But he has plenty of talent and I wouldn't write him off yet. If I come close to the amount of tournaments he's won, I'll be doing extremely well.

What did you think of Tiger calling you a "plodder" in 2005?
I suppose it was a compliment. It shows how consistent I am. That I have a chance to win every week.

So it didn't hurt when Christian, your brother and former caddie, started calling you Plod?
It wasn't really Christian that called me that; it was some of the players. Maybe subconsciously it hurt.

What was your reaction when, in 2009, an American journalist wrote a piece for a British newspaper alleging that you, like many other players of your generation, were happy to coast along without ever winning? He said you had no drive and labeled your condition "Luke Donald Disease."
That upset me. That was a terribly written article by a journalist who had never met me. Fair enough if you want to criticize that I haven't won enough—I'm the first to criticize myself. But to say it's down to not having the desire or work ethic, that I'm someone who's happy to pick up checks but who doesn't really care about winning, is ridiculous. He should come and watch me practice. If he'd seen me work, he might have written that article differently.

PGA Tour veteran Joe Ogilvie had your back. Earlier this year he posted a tweet asking if anyone could show him how to catch Luke Donald Disease.
He saw the funny side of it. People want to be in contention every week. And I've been doing that. If it was me just chasing the money, you get a lot more for coming in first than you do for eighth.

Growing up, who were your heroes?
I watched Seve a lot on TV winning his Opens and the Masters. But I've modeled my game a little bit on Nick Faldo's. I tried to stay away from Seve's! [Laughs] The European Tour and the European players owe a big debt of gratitude to Seve. He put the European Tour on the map with his flair, his charisma.

With you, Westwood, Rory McIlroy and many other Europeans playing so well, do you feel that you're at the forefront of another great era for British and European golf?
It's similar to the generation back in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Faldo, Seve, Woosnam, Lyle, Langer and Olazabal. It's a great time for European golf, and especially for English golf.

There's something different about you this year.
Maybe I've found the right formula. I can't put my finger on a specific point. It's been a natural and gradual progression. But confidence breeds confidence, and that win at the Match Play was a big deal. Even winning the Madrid Masters in 2010 was a big deal. Winning means a lot more than finishing top 10.

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