Donald Maintains Firm Grip on No. 1 Spot


Thanks to a victory each on the PGA and European tours this year, Luke Donald remains ensconced in the top spot of the World Golf Ranking. The 34-year-old Englishman enjoys a considerable point-and-a-half- lead over No. 2 Tiger Woods, making it 55 weeks in total he's been atop the points' standings.

Donald hopes to extend that lead with a good performance in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The $8.5 million event begins Thursday at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

His wins this year have come in the Transitions Champion in March on the PGA Tour, and in May in the European Tour's BMW championship. In 11 PGA events, he has logged six top-25 finishes, earning $2,604,116. In Europe's Race to Dubai - its season-long money title - he's earned $1,610,396. Last year Donald won a whopping $7.11 million combined to become the first player in history to be awarded Player of the Year titles on both tours.

On Wednesday, he met with reporters to discuss Firestone and the Bridgestone Invitational, which will feature an outstanding field that includes the top players in the world as well as the winners of all three of the four Grand Slam events completed so far this year. Donald will be paired in the first round with Phil Mickelson. (For Thursday's tee times, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/tournaments/r476/tee-times.html.)

Here's what Donald - who finished tied for second with Rickie Fowler behind winner Adam Scott in last year's Bridgestone - said to the media during his Q&A on the eve of the tournament.

MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome back. Just start us off, I suppose, with thoughts and feelings going into the week. You're in quite a good run of form after the British.

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I'm excited. Obviously a good run of events coming up, and obviously hopefully build off a very solid Open Championship for me. I felt like I controlled the ball very well. I'm excited about continuing that form, and I've always enjoyed playing this week. It's a very solid golf course. It's a golf course you really have to drive it well, do everything really well here. It's a tough test, and it will be a great preparation for next week.

MODERATOR: Good memories of last year and your second-place finish?

LUKE DONALD: Yeah, I've always seemed to play solidly here and be somewhat in the mix. I think it is a course that suits my game. Again, you have to really plot your way around this place, be very consistent tee to green, and obviously be good on the greens. It's a place I've been relatively successful but haven't quite got to the point of winning. So hopefully that will change this year.

Q. Obviously a good performance at the Open Championship. Do you really feel like your game is in good shape at the moment?

LUKE DONALD: Absolutely. I think the Open was a great week in terms of putting behind the disappointment of the U.S. Open. I really struggled with my game there, spent a lot of time on the range after the U.S. Open figuring out what I needed to do to get back to where I was feeling comfortable again with my swing, and myself and coach, Pat Goss, we really worked hard on the range, more so than usual, and I've certainly seen the results pay off pretty quickly. The strike is back. I had good control at the Open. I was hitting 75 percent of greens, 75 percent of fairways, and the numbers were certainly good enough to where I could have won the tournament with a little bit better maintenance around the greens. Yeah, certainly excited about this week and obviously a good run of tournaments leading up to the Ryder Cup.

Q. Adam was just in here, and he talked about how he was optimistic about what had happened to him at Lytham and how he saw his finish as another piece of proof that he can win a major championship. Obviously yours was more of a backdoor top five, but it was another opportunity where you had a positive outlook on how you played in a major. Do you feel like it was another piece for you, and how close do you feel you are on winning a major championship after the British?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I'm not so sure it was - you might consider it back door, but I don't really see it that way. I was maybe two shots per round, starting from the first round, away from really being in the mix of players. Obviously there was two guys that really got out ahead. You could argue that Ernie was a backdoor winner in a way (laughing), but I certainly left that week full of confidence. I'm excited about where my game is going. I feel like I'm always improving, getting better. I'm learning to not only improve my physical side of my game, but mentally it was a big step forward for me to be able to go there and kind of decide how I wanted to feel, going out there and not letting the situation control that. You know, I certainly left there with a lot of positive thoughts. Certainly my game tee to green was definitely good enough to win that week.

Q. And the thing about the World Ranking, you've had it for the majority of the last year and a half, and it's been you, Lee and Rory, and now Tiger Woods is second. Do you perceive it any differently now that he's kind of gaining on you versus two guys that were experiencing it the first time he was No.1 for such a long time?

LUKE DONALD: I don't see any difference. Obviously you have no control what other guys are doing. All I can do is go out there and control what I can do. I'm certainly very proud of my No.1 ranking and how long I've kept it. That shows how consistent I've been over the last couple years, and I'll continue to try and work on accomplishing a lot more in this game.

And if I keep doing what I know I can do, winning more tournaments and hopefully winning majors, then hopefully I can stay there. But obviously I've got a lot of great players behind me, including Tiger. He's certainly starting to play a lot better. He's won three times this year, and as a result he's climbed up the World Rankings. It's good to have guys like that chomping at your heel. They push you to work harder, to challenge yourself to try and get to that next level.

Q. In terms of the majors, the Masters kind of its own monster, the U.S. Open has been described as the toughest test in golf, links golf for the Open. How do you describe the PGA?

LUKE DONALD: Well, I feel like, yeah, I suppose if you were going to rank majors, I'd probably put that probably fourth on the list just because - one, because of its positioning; it's the last one. Two, it does have a different setup feel to it. The PGA of America aren't usually trying to create the hardest test possible. In that way it feels a little bit more like a regular Tour event. Obviously a great field, and certainly shouldn't take any shine away from anyone who's won a PGA Championship. It was something that I would love to win. I'll be trying my hardest next week. But I guess, especially for the U.S. guys, because it's usually on golf courses that replicate a lot of the kind of conditions that we see week in and week out on the U.S. Tour, great greens. And I just feel like because of that, it kind of doesn't stand out as much as the other three.

Q. They talked about having the strongest field of the majors, but does it seem as much when you guys play against each other so much more often during the year for world events to a couple big events on both tours? There used to be a time when the majors were when everyone in the world got together.

LUKE DONALD: We obviously have these world events now, and a lot of these tournaments, yeah, we are playing with very similar fields. We're playing against the best players. I suppose the PGA is like that. But top 100 instead of maybe top 50.

Q. There's been a lot of come from behind wins, especially on the PGA Tour. Do you think there's more pressure to win - maybe majors, but also just a normal week? And if so, is there a reason there's maybe more pressure now than there was before?

LUKE DONALD: I think the come from behind thing is maybe more just a 2012 thing. I don't think it's always been that way. I think it probably speaks to how deep fields are becoming. There isn't really that one dominant player right now. It's showing how deep the fields are and that winning from the front is tough. I think that's why we all respect what Tiger has done in the game, because he was so good at getting a lead and keeping it. That's a tough thing to do. And obviously that's been shown this year that no lead is really that safe. I think it's a little bit 2012. It's just kind of something that's happened quite a lot. But it also speaks to how strong and how deep the fields are. Anyone can win on any given week.

Q. You make the argument that started at the end of 2011, don't you?

LUKE DONALD: The start of 2011? I'm a bit slow this morning.

Q. The comeback at Disney at the end of '11.

LUKE DONALD: That's true, yeah. Oh, yeah, who was that?

MODERATOR: Good morning, Luke Donald.

LUKE DONALD: Sorry, bit of a fuzzy head. Good point there.

Q. One more thing on that: Is there more of an aggressive, though, mindset maybe if you're four or five back now as opposed to before when everybody is showing - more pedal to the metal on the back nine on Sunday?

LUKE DONALD: That's a tough one. I mean, people always say if you're back, you become more aggressive. I always just try to play the course the way it's meant to be played. I think you play to your strengths to create as many opportunities. Being aggressive, me trying to swing hard or trying to go for it from 208 yards carrying water with a 3 wood, I'm not ever going to make that. I think you always have to play to your strengths. I think it's more about the mindset of the guy in the front, not the guy chasing. I think that's always been the same. I've always thought Faldo's kind of perception about that is when you're in the front, don't try and protect the lead, try and make it bigger, try and keep making birdies. And I think that's a good mindset to have when you're in the lead.

Q. Just repackaging some of the questions, why do you think this year that people have had a harder time closing? It's been clear that in the case of Stanley, Levin, even Adam, they were in places they hadn't been before, which would be some of it. I want to get your take on why this year it seems guys have had a hard time closing.

LUKE DONALD: Hmm, I'm not really sure how to answer that. You know, the only - I'm not sure if that's even relevant, but I was thinking that there hasn't been someone like Tiger winning 10 times. Maybe it's given more opportunity for players to have leads going into the final few rounds. I don't know, I'm clutching at straws here. I don't really know if what I'm saying makes sense. I think it's a testament to some of the guys that have lost those leads to go back and win them the next few weeks. I mean, obviously Kyle Stanley and obviously what Ernie went through last year, coming back and winning. I think that's kind of a fun story in itself.

Q. What's the best loss you ever had?

LUKE DONALD: Best loss I've ever had?

Q. What proved to be the most valuable?

LUKE DONALD: I was trying to think about if I've had some leads where I've kind of not quite finished the job off, and probably the one that stands out was Wentworth, what, three years ago. I think I was maybe one ahead with two holes to play, made double on 17, birdied the last but still lost by a shot, went on to, I think, win the next week in Madrid. You know, and obviously that win in Madrid kind of kicked off a great run for me. I always think that you learn a lot more from failing than you do from succeeding.

Q. Are you getting wrapped up with the excitement with the Olympics back in London, and is it whetting your appetite for the Olympics in Ryo in four years' time?

LUKE DONALD: It is. I've watched a little bit of it. It's not quite the same when you know the results, (laughter) I must admit. You kind of lose that excitement a little bit. But NBC is still getting their numbers, I think. You know, it is inspirational to watch, to see these athletes pour out everything that they've got, the hard work, the sweat, the dedication to try and win a medal. It certainly is inspiring, and I'd certainly love to have that opportunity in four years' time.

MODERATOR: Luke, thanks for joining us. Good luck this week.

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


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