Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Unlike many of the bright young things on Tour, Luke Donald, 29, favors an old-school, my-clubs-will-do-the-talking-thank-you-very-much approach. His game is steady, but he lacks the palpable blood thirst of Sergio Garcia, the polished grace of Adam Scott or the wayward wackiness of Ian Poulter. Donald, who paints as a pastime, is a more subdued pastel to the primary-color boldness of his peers. Currently ranked 13th in the world, Donald's rise has been steady if unspectacular. The upside to that is there's potential for a sudden explosion of dramatic fireworks, and the affable Chicago-based Brit has everything he needs to make that happen.

So do you feel like the "potential" period is over and now it's time to win a major?

You averaged 284.5 yards per drive in 2005, yet some people insist you're a short hitter. Does that rub you the wrong way?

How did it feel to play with Jack Nicklaus at St. Andrews in the final major championship round of his career, with Tom Watson no less?

What was your initial reaction to hearing the news?

Was it tough to stay focused when it would've been easy to fall into the role of a fan?

Did you come close to losing it?

Tell us about the pressure of playing in the Ryder Cup [in 2004].

That first tee shot is built up so much, you can't help but be nervous. I got up there and I felt pretty good. Then I stuck the tee in the ground and that's when it hit me. I started shaking a little bit. I tried to concentrate, but I got my legs way ahead of me and the club behind me, and I nearly hit it onto the ninth tee. Probably one of the worst drives I've ever hit on the first hole of any round. My partner, Paul McGinley, made par. I was just short of the green in 4. I made a solid 6 [laughs].

Was there late-night celebrating after that victory?

You and Sergio went 2-0 in foursomes. Why do you make a good partnership?

If you played for the American team, who's the guy you'd least like to play against?

How did a golf ace from England end up at Northwestern, not exactly a sports powerhouse?

I knew I wanted to come to a university in America, and I was recruited heavily by Stanford. I didn't get into Stanford, and I was a little upset about it. [Stanford coach] Wally Goodwin felt bad, and he pointed me toward Northwestern. I went for a visit, met [coach] Pat Goss, saw the courses they played on, and really enjoyed Chicago. When I got there in April for my visit and there was still some snow on the ground, but in the end it worked out the best.

Pat must have made quite an impression on you since he's still your swing coach today.

Were you a frat boy in college?

Is it true that you were once bitten by a fraternity snake?

What is Pat doing to me? [Laughs] I was over at one of my frat brother's apartments on a Friday night, it was late, and his friend had a pet snake that he kept in his apartment. A boa constrictor, probably 6 or 7 feet long. Pretty thick. He took it out just to show it to everyone and hung it around his neck. I was intrigued so I went up to him and asked him if it was OK to touch it. I went to pet the snake, and it just saw my hand and went for it, bit me right across the first two fingers of my left hand. A quick bite and off. The owner said, "Well, he hasn't eaten anything in two weeks and I guess he thought your hand was food." I was like, "Thanks for telling me that now." And, actually, a snake's teeth come out when they bite, so they stayed in my hand. I had to go to the hospital the next morning to get them removed. One was so deep that it's still in my hand, in the middle crease of my forefinger. I can still feel it sometimes.

You were an art major and are still a pretty fair painter. How did you get into painting?

After college, you bought a place in Evanston, Ill. Why did you decide to live near Chicago when most Tour players plunk down in warmer spots like Orlando, West Palm or Scottsdale?

How to Make More Pressure Putts
According to the PGA Tour's ShotLink, Luke Donald converted 582 of 605 putts (96.2 percent) inside of 6 feet. Use his secrets to sharpen your game
Any putt inside 6 feet is a pressure putt because you expect to make it. And when you miss one, the effect can snowball. Good putters don't let a miss bother them. They think only about making the next one. Here are my keys to sink more of the short putts that keep your round on track and keep you in the money.
Stay still. As a thought, imagine your head is resting up against a wall as you make your stroke, and that your arms are moving the putter back and forth. The club will swing more down the line for square contact.
Putt blind. The more makeable the putt, the more anxious you are to see the result. This can lead to a quick, jerky stroke. When I'm practicing, I sometimes turn the visor of my cap down so I can't see the hole. You could simply shut your left eye as well. You won't be anxious so you can focus on making a good stroke. Remove yourself from the outcome and think positive.
Charge! Take a more aggressive approach. Hit each putt with enough speed to send the ball 18 inches past the hole. The firmer the stroke, the less susceptible the putt is to the green's slope or break.
Are you a big Cubs fan?

You were supposed to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field the day St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile died, right?

Are there any American customs you just don't get?

You got dragged into the "I hate Americans" comment by your World Cup teammate Paul Casey. What do you make of what's happened since that firestorm? He's seemed to struggle a lot since.

Did you learn anything from the experience?

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