An email conversation with Luke Donald: 'The US are very strong. But we seem to thrive in the team format'

Why Europe are the rightful Ryder Cup favourites; Chasing a million in the Match Play at Wentworth; Playing in a shirt that's a red rag to the Tiger; Life as Wycombe wanderer in the Windy City
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The Independent Online

You are playing in the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth this week. What would it mean to win such a prestigious event, especially as it would be your first professional victory on "home" soil? Firstly, I was just really pleased to have qualified. It really is the perfect preparation ahead of next week's Ryder Cup, as well as being an awesome title to win. And it's not a bad pay cheque at £1m.

Which do you prefer, matchplay or strokeplay? And which format do you think your game is most suited to? I like the variety, so I appreciate the opportunity to do both. I am a fairly steady player so strokeplay certainly suits my game. But I do enjoy the different challenges matchplay presents.

What are your childhood memories of the World Match Play? There are so many. I remember watching Nick Faldo beat Ian Woosnam by one hole in 1989 and then Woosie going on to beat Mark McNulty in the final the next year. Then there was Ernie Els winning three years in a row in the 1990s and Mark O'Meara staging a fantastic comeback against Tiger Woods in the final in 1998.

If you get to play Tiger this week, will you wear a red shirt like you did at the recent USPGA? To be honest, I'd already planned what I was wearing at the start of that week so it was more coincidence and as my fiancée, Diane, pointed out, Tiger doesn't own the colour red so it wasn't a big deal. It certainly wasn't any psychological tactic. By the end of this week, I think I will wear whatever shirt is still clean.

Do you regard the USPGA - where you finished in a tie for third after holding an overnight lead going into the final round - as a success or a failure? The finish helped me qualify for the World Match Play Championship and finishing top five in any major is obviously a good achievement. Obviously, I wish I had been able to capitalise on my position more on the final day, but I didn't do a whole lot wrong and I really think the experience will stand me in good stead for future majors. The other good thing was that I started strongly. I've thrown in a few poor first rounds in other majors and had to play catch-up, so it was important for me to start as well as I did and I think I will be better equipped in future years. There were so many positives.

What would you prefer to play Tiger in: an 18-hole strokeplay shoot-out, such as the final round of the USPGA; 36 holes of matchplay, such as Sunday's final at Wentworth; or 18 holes of matchplay, such as in the decisive singles at the Ryder Cup a week on Sunday? Any time you play with Tiger it is a special experience, as you get to play against the world's No 1 and have a chance to come out on top. It's opportunities like this that we play for and so I would take any of the three choices - or all three. But I do like to focus each week at a time so right now, ahead of this week, I'll take playing against Tiger in the final of the World Match Play Championship on Sunday.

Are the bookmakers right to have Europe as the favourites for next week? It is an enormous compliment to Europe, who have been the underdogs for so many years. It was bound to turn around in the bookies' eyes, though I don't think it will have much of an effect on the result. The US are very strong and, make no mistake, with the world's No 1, No 2 and No 3 in their line-up they will be feeling pretty confident and hungry for a victory. However, we do seem to thrive in the team environment and the matchplay format seems to suit us. Plus we will have the awesome support of the Irish crowds behind us. So...

Further to all the recent negative headlines, what sort of captain will Ian Woosnam make? I think Ian will be great. He has such a fantastic knowledge of the game and as he is still competing on the Tour he is very in touch with all of our personalities and games. He has also played in eight Ryder Cups under various captains, who he will have learnt so much from. He was also assistant captain to Sam Torrance at The Belfry in 2002, so I would say he is perfectly prepared.

You were selected somewhat controversially yourself as a wild card two years ago. How nervous were you? I was so nervous. I was thrilled to be one of Bernhard Langer's picks and really wanted to show that he had made a good choice, but the more experienced players, such as Monty [Colin Montgomerie], Darren [Clarke] and Lee [Westwood], along with Bernhard, really helped prepare me and I felt great the whole week.

Were you surprised how easily you took to it? Not really, I had been a part of two winning Walker Cup sides and really enjoyed being part of a team when I played for my American university, so I was really looking forward to the opportunity as I felt I could really contribute to the team.

Why is it that American teams have consistently had the better individuals in the last two decades, but Europe have consistently had the better team? It is difficult to know why. Team events can be tricky for golfers, who spend the most part of their careers participating in what is a very individual sport. I suppose most people credit it to the team spirit and unity of the Europeans, but then I know the US guys get along great too and want to win just as much as we do.

Is there a danger that winning the Ryder Cup every two years might become a bit of an excuse for you and the other European golfers who haven't won a major between you in seven years? Not at all. If anything, it should give one of us the confidence to step up and win a major. I don't think the two statistics are related and winning the Ryder Cup would not in any way lessen any of our desires to win a major.

You are often quoted as saying that you believe you can be the best player in the world. With Tiger on the scene, is this really feasible? You have to believe that you can reach the top or you settle for mediocrity. Tiger's achievements are amazing and he is, without a doubt, the best player in the world at the moment. But he doesn't win every major and golf is a game where things can change very quickly. I know I can still improve a lot.

Are you naturally shy or an extrovert, and is your personality a hindrance or a help? My personality is well suited to golf. I may not be the biggest showman in the world but I am a strong personality and it has stood me in pretty good stead so far on tour. When you get to know me, I'm a lot of fun.

Are you staying at your parents' home this week and if so, do you get to sleep in your old bed, in your old room, with your old Spice Girls posters still up on the wall? I will stay with my parents a few nights and spend some time at Wentworth, where they generously put us up. It's nice to be so close as my family can come and watch and I can spend as much time with them as possible. I'm spooked how you know about the Spice Girls posters, though. Actually, I was more into Oasis, growing up.

You are often described as "art lover Luke Donald". Where would you prefer to go on a free Saturday: Tate Modern or a Premiership football match? Probably Tate Modern. My fiancée, Diane, might prefer it.

You have lived in Chicago for almost a decade. Will you ever come back to live in Britain? Possibly, though while I am basing myself mainly on the US Tour, Chicago is the right place for me and I have a lot of friends there. I think when the time is right and perhaps when I start to think about having a family,I would love to get a place in England.

What do you miss most about "home"? Definitely my family and friends, though with my brother, Christian, as my caddie, I am pretty lucky in that regard.

You come from High Wycombe. Did you ever support Wycombe Wanderers? I've only ever mildly followed their progress.

Which is it then: Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, or Adams Park? I have to admit I've never been to Adams Park - awful, I know. I've been to Wrigley plenty of times. My American mates must be having an influence on me.

The HSBC World Match Play Championship tees off on Thursday, with 16 of the world's best players including the world No 1 Tiger Woods competing for a first prize of £1m. To follow all the action, visit: www.hsbcgolf.com

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