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Donald Back on Top


With his win on Sunday in the Transitions Championship, Luke Donald supplanted Rory McIlroy as the No. 1-ranked player in golf. McIlroy, who replaced Donald in the top spot after his victory in early March in the Honda Classic, fell to No. 2.

McIlroy sent congratulations to Donald through his Twitter account. "Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats (at) LukeDonald! Impressive performance!" the 22-year-old Northern Irishman tweeted.

Donald closed with a 5-under 66 on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., to tie Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and South Korean Sang-Moon Bae in regulation at 13-under 271. Then on the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, the 34-year-old Englishman carded a birdie to win the tournament and reclaim the top position in the game.

After signing his scorecard, Donald sat down with reporters and discussed his day and what he foresees in the weeks ahead. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: We welcome the winner of the 2012 Transitions Championship. Luke, the only way for you to retake the No. 1 spot in the world was for you to win this tournament, and you came here and you won this tournament. Congratulations. Back to No. 1 in the world, and you move to 12th in the FedEx Cup. I won't talk any further; I'll let you just tell us a little how it feels and we'll open it up for questions.

LUKE DONALD: Well, obviously it feels great. My focus this week was to try and win, and that's kind of my focus every week. I wasn't really thinking about the World Rankings. So glad to have got myself back in position and given myself a chance. It was a slow start to the year, but gained a lot of confidence from last week's result, and just every day, I felt like I was getting closer to how I want to hit the ball and how I want to feel over the putts. It was nice to sneak out a win.

Q. Did you think 13 under would get into a playoff down the stretch? What were you thinking about the rest of the field?

LUKE DONALD: When I got to 13 after 11 holes, I thought maybe I wanted to grab a couple more. Obviously those last four holes are challenging. 15, I mean, there's an opportunity there, but the last three, especially, are quite challenging. The greens, especially at 17 and 18 were extremely difficult to get the ball close to the hole. So once I missed that putt on 14, I thought I still needed to maybe get one more. But you know, it's a tough stretch down the last few holes and you know, the other guys weren't making birdies, either. Luckily it was good enough to come in with seven pars.

Q. The second shot on 18 in the playoff, can you just take us through that, the club out of the rough and obviously the result?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I had 159. It was only three yards further than I had in regulation. It was just a full 7 iron for me. It was playing ten yards uphill, so it was playing about 170. It was just one of those shots that it was a good club. I had a good yardage, and I'm not sure where it pitched. I didn't even see the pitch mark but it just must have carried the bunker and rolled up perfectly. That's the hardest green on the course. They tweaked it this year and I think they are going to tweak it again; it's pretty severe. Obviously that shot just came out perfectly. You never quite know out of the rough. Sometimes it comes out soft and sometimes it comes out a little hot. That one, just when it was in the air, looked good to me.

Q. Can you talk about the seesaw of emotions there must have been on the back nine with so many players bunched up?

LUKE DONALD: Well, it was fun. It was exciting. It was good to be in that mix and have a chance. As I said, the finish here isn't that easy. It's tough to kind of gain too much ground and fortunately, I made a nice little run of three birdies, 9, 10, 11, which is obviously the key to get myself into position.

Q. What are your feelings about this course overall?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I like it. I mean, I came here a couple years ago and finished sixth. It's kind of a ball striker's course. I don't think you can overpower this course specifically. A lot of dog legs and 3 irons and rescues and 3 woods off the tees. I mean, it's a positional golf course. Jim Furyk's done very well here, he's kind of a similar golfer to me. I don't feel like I'm at too much of a disadvantage off the tee because of that. That's one reason why I wanted to play here this year.

Q. Will you be Tweeting Rory, or will you be expecting to hear anything from him?

LUKE DONALD: If he says something, I'll replay. (Laughter).

Q. Do you think he enjoyed the view?

LUKE DONALD: I'll be practicing probably with him in the next couple weeks at the Bear's Club. Yeah, I'm sure he got a taste of view and I'm sure he'll want more of it. He's a great player and it's nice to have - I think golf is in a good spot right now. There's a lot of excitement going on. The good players are playing well, and it's nice to have a little back and forth like that.

Q. Do you get any sense that after Rory won Honda and went to 1, you were kind of written off?

LUKE DONALD: Absolutely. I don't pay too much attention to it, but I certainly wasn't in the media at all. I think people saw my last year, or thought that my last year was maybe a little bit more of a, not a fluke, but you know, I don't think many people thought I could do that all over again this year. You know, hopefully I can prove them wrong.

Q. You've always kind of been a determined guy in a sort of very quiet way. What did last year do to you in terms of confidence going into this year?

LUKE DONALD: A huge amount of confidence. Any time you win four times, winning the two money titles, stroke average, those all go in the memory bank. I use those in a positive way to reinforce my mental - how I'm feeling mentally. You know, it's a funny game. It does come and go. Obviously after the slow start, there are some doubts. They do creep in sometimes. You know, you can certainly fall into the trap of looking at last year and how I played and kind of comparing that. But, in the end, I knew that if I kept working and I saw my swing on video, it was getting better and better, and I knew that hard work would pay off. Obviously it's starting to show the last couple of weeks.

Q. It's hard to believe that there would have been a low point this year at all, but you said there were some doubts; what were those doubts?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I got off to a pretty good start last year winning the Match Play. And obviously just as a golfer, you kind of know when you're on the course and you're not hitting it quite as well as you'd like to; you've got not quite as much control. Obviously had a poor last round in L.A. and that didn't really bother me, but the way I played against Ernie really bothered me. I hit it poorly. Wasn't hitting the shots that I wanted to. Wasn't even feeling very comfortable on the greens. It just seemed very strange to me because I had been working hard and I felt good about where I was. But obviously I was able to turn it around, and you know I wouldn't say there was a huge amount of doubts, but I was certainly expecting to get off to a better start than I did.

Q. We all wondered why you took Honda off; obviously you know why you took Honda off. Do you think that helped in getting yourself prepared for the run that you're going on now?

LUKE DONALD: Certainly. Last year my schedule, I played a couple times where I played four in a row and I felt that fourth one, I was a little bit spent. I just didn't have the energy. Obviously I played L.A., because I've played well there in the past. I like that golf course, classic course. And obviously having the two World Golf Championships soon after that, if I'm going to play Honda, then Doral was going to be my fourth one. I didn't really want to go there feeling a little bit spent. So it was a tough decision not to play Honda. I like playing there. I feel as though, as someone who lives in the area, would like to support the event. But in terms of preparation for Doral, but ultimately for Augusta, it was the best decision not to play.

Q. I know it's obviously chaotic there at the end, I don't know if you saw behind you Ernie had a putt to get in, that would have gotten in the playoff, also, that he missed on 18. He was leading there for a while. Just curious if you saw that; you mentioned playing him a few weeks ago. He's been struggling and not in the Masters. Curious if you can relate at all or see a star like him going through what he's going through.

LUKE DONALD: Well, I think Ernie's obviously struggled on the greens more than anything, and that kind of seeps through the bag. Ernie was playing behind me today, and he was bombing shots - I was looking back and he was 50 yards past where I was. He's obviously felt like he was swinging well this week. Obviously played well to get into that position. But yes, it's unfortunate to miss a short putt like that. You know, putting is very mental. Hopefully he can figure it out.

Q. You touched on it a second ago, there's a good chance with the long hitters in the playoff, you or Jim were going to have an opportunity to hit the approach shot in. Does the match play side of you look at that as a good opportunity?

LUKE DONALD: Again, I was just trying to focus on giving myself an opportunity to make birdie. I hit a pretty good drive. I was surprised it leaked off to the right but the wind was a little off the right. The other three hit pretty good drives. I was probably in the worst position, but fortunately, again, that shot just came off perfectly. To finish under the hole out of the rough was a little bit of luck, but obviously finished in the perfect spot and I was able to make a putt.

Q. Were you nervous when the ball was in the air?

LUKE DONALD: I felt good, actually, when the ball was in the air. I thought it looked good. You know, it was one of those shots that just came off right. It was tracking all the way, and it was going to be a big 7 iron for me, because the lie was a little heavy, but fortunately, it just carried and was perfect.

Q. You said something earlier about sort of feeling written off earlier once Rory went to No. 1 and you've kind of talked about that in the past; how much did that motivate you?

LUKE DONALD: I use it to motivate me, yeah, for sure.

Q. Anything Alex wrote?

LUKE DONALD: (Mimicking, giving intense look).

Q. You're such a beauty, Luke.

LUKE DONALD: Thank you. (Laughter).

Q. On 18, it's such a tough green to read, I saw the Korean player's putt came down, it looked like it was tracking towards your ball or marker; did you commit to the putt or did that help you at all?

LUKE DONALD: I didn't watch any of the other guys really. I went up and saw the putt before anyone had hit the putt and I pretty much knew it was inside the left edge and I was going to stick to that. You know, as I said, I was in the perfect spot. When Robert missed, I knew I had a golden opportunity and it was nice to take it when I had the chance; with a four man playoff, you want to try to finish it off as quickly as possible. That could have gone on for a while.

Q. What was your absolute last thought before you hit that putt and what was the first thing that went through your mind when it dropped in?

LUKE DONALD: Last thing I thought about was I've been ranked No. 1 in putting last three years of the just trust it and hit in.

Q. You really thought that?

LUKE DONALD: Absolutely.

Q. How about when it went in?

LUKE DONALD: I don't remember that.

Q. You got to No. 1 in the world twice in playoffs. Does that seem a little odd to you?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I don't know if it's odd. It's just the way it's happened. It's nice to be on the winning side. Obviously first against Lee; as I said, it was a much bigger deal to me the first time around. I thought about it a lot and had a lot of chances obviously leading up to Wentworth. I was quite nervous that last round at Hilton Head. I played quite well, but felt a lot different than this time around. I mean, obviously when I have experienced being at No. 1 before, as I said, it wasn't my focus. But yeah, just funny how it did work out that way; that both had about an eight foot putt for birdie to win it and seal it off and made them both.

Q. You're not playing Houston, are you?

LUKE DONALD: No, I have two weeks off.

Q. I don't know what the math is going to do, but does it matter to you if you're still 1 going into Augusta?

LUKE DONALD: It doesn't. Obviously I can't control that. There might be a little bit more hype around me now. I'll probably be able to go about my business with a bit more attention now, but again, I've been through that. I still think Rory and obviously Tiger will be getting a lot of the attention.

Q. Can we get the birdies through that critical stretch?

LUKE DONALD: The par5, I hit a rescue, 3 iron, sand iron, made a 15 footer, 12 footer maybe. 6, I hit a 3 wood, 6 iron and made an 18 footer. 9, I hit 3 wood, 9 iron to a foot. 10, I actually hit 3 wood, 5 iron and made a 15 footer. Then 11 I hit drive, 3 wood into the front bunker. And hit it to a foot and made that.

Q. Why did you hit 3 wood off the tee on 10? Do you tend to lay that far back?

LUKE DONALD: Just felt more of a comfort thing. I've been hitting the 3 wood pretty well. Didn't hit that one very well. Wind switched on me a little bit. It was a little bit further back than I should have been. I was in between driver and 3 wood, but I was just trying to get it in the fairway and give myself an opportunity for birdie. That's a tough hole.

Q. And 17?

LUKE DONALD: 17, I hit a 3 iron and just over cut it into the front bunker, or the right bunker. Played a decent shot to four or five feet maybe and holed that.

Q. Was it a difficult par save? It was a good one.

LUKE DONALD: The bunker shot wasn't too difficult. The putt had a little bit of right to left in it, but something I should have made.

Q. One thing you talked about, Rory and Tiger will probably get the attention; do you feel like that's a benefit to you by the fact that we don't treat you the same way - when Tiger shows up at an event, he gets all of this attention and gets a lot of demands on him. Do you feel that you can be off on your own and not have to worry about it?

LUKE DONALD: I think so, in the long run, yes, there probably is an advantage to me. I can kind of go about my business and not have to deal with as much as though two are dealing with.

Q. Do you ever treat yourself to something when you win?

LUKE DONALD: Not specifically but I might this time.

Q. You ever get John any socks or anything?

LUKE DONALD: I just gave him some, actually this morning, yeah. No joke. I had some FootJoy ones they gave me that were really colorful and I didn't really have much use for them, so I gave them to him. He loved them.

Q. Calf high?

LUKE DONALD: Just ankle-high.

Q. So you re gifted?

LUKE DONALD: I re-gifted. (Laughter). Had not worn them though.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.