2004: Donald will savor first Ryder Cup taste
Luke Donald, who along with Jack Nicklaus and Charles Howell III is part of Team RBS, will represent England as one of 12 players on the European Ryder Cup team. Donald, a Northwestern University graduate, is No. 33 on the PGA Tour money list. Here are his thoughts on the 35th Ryder Cup Matches:
QUESTION: What was your reaction when you learned European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer had selected you to play on the team?
LUKE DONALD: A little bit of relief, a lot of excitement. Those are the two words I’d use to describe it. There were quite a few nervous weeks leading up to it. This is something I’ve thought about for years. You dream of it as a kid, now it’s reality. So it’s just starting to sink in.
Q: You weren’t able to participate in the news conference when Langer announced his two captain’s picks Aug. 29 in Germany. Where were you?
LD: I was on a private plane en route to Switzerland (to play in the Omega European Masters). We had to take off at 6 p.m., and the team wasn’t announced until 6:30. So I didn’t find out I had made it until I saw a text message from Guy Kinnings (IMG golf division senior vice president) when we landed. I had seen Bernhard a couple of hours before the selection, but he wasn’t giving anything away. He said there had been (news) leaks in the past, and he didn’t want that to happen. He did call me in Switzerland to say ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Well done.’
Q: Were there any Ryder Cup teammates on the plane?
LD: Sergio Garcia. We’ve become pretty good friends the last couple of years. He was pretty happy for me.
Q: What do you bring to the European team?
LD: I’m playing extremely well right now. I feel very much in control of my game. I’m a straight hitter, so in foursomes I will always be in play. I think my game is suited to this kind of layout (Oakland Hills), with long rough and tight fairways. Being on the PGA Tour, I’ve played with a lot of the U.S. players, so I’m not intimidated by them. I think it will be a lot like playing a Tour event, but with a little more pressure. A lot more pressure probably.
Q: What are your thoughts on potential partnerships at Oakland Hills?
LD: Obviously Paul Casey springs to mind. We played together in the Walker Cup in 1999 and we worked quite well. We won our matches reasonably easily. I have become good friends with Sergio Garcia and that could be another partnership. But there are a lot of guys I could play with. I think I have a pretty steady game and I could play with anyone.
Q: Bernhard Langer said he picked you because you seemed best suited to Oakland Hills over other players. What did he mean by that?
LD: Well, you don’t need to be long at Oakland Hills. That’s good for me and could have been the deciding factor in Bernhard’s decision. I think it was very close between Fredrik Jacobson and me. The strength of Fredrik’s game is a great short game. He is a little more wild off the tee and with his irons. I’m a bit more steady. My game is more similar to Bernhard’s, I think.
Q: You’re 26 years old. What are your earliest Ryder Cup memories?
LD: The first Ryder Cup I remember was 1987, at Muirfield Village, the first time the Europeans won on U.S. soil. I remember watching the Americans play the 18th so poorly. Ben Crenshaw was putting with his 3-iron because he’d broken his putter in anger. I remember Jose Maria Olazabal dancing on the green and the players spraying champagne on each other.
Q: Your fellow Team RBS member, Jack Nicklaus, played six times in the Ryder Cup with a pretty formidable record (17-8-3). Is that inspiring to a young player such as yourself?
LD: Absolutely, but then all Jack’s records are pretty unbelievable. He had such huge self-belief and that’s what you need in match play. I mean, he is honest enough to say he never had the best short game because his iron play was so good. But he knew that even if he chipped it to 10 feet that he would hole it. That’s hard to beat in match play.
Q: Does he offer you much advice?
LD: Jack’s the sort of player who will give you as much advice as you want if you ask for it. . . . A lot of the young guys know what they are doing and like to do things their own way, but I’ve played a few practice rounds with him, and when I have asked him, he has been only too happy to help.
Q: Jack was involved in perhaps the greatest sporting gesture golf ever has witnessed when he graciously conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin at Royal Birkdale in England in 1969. Is that what the Ryder Cup is all about?
LD: Absolutely. The match should be competitive but there should be no malice or anything like that. The Ryder Cup is all about the spirit of the game. That (is the) biggest part of the competition, not the winning or losing. I think you will see that at Oakland Hills because the teams have so much respect for one another. It will be tough, but it will be fair.