Ask Northwestern alum turned professional golfer Luke Donald about his short game and you'll get a response as smooth as his swing.
Ask Donald what he'd be doing with his degree in art theory were he not one of the world's best golfers and he'll use his training as an art theorist to paint a picture devoid of green.
"It's hard to tell," he said with a chuckle. "I think I'd be probably living in a different suburb than I am now. Let's put it that way."
Turns out, he made the right career choice.
Donald's skills on the course have earned him a spot on Team Europe in this weekend's Ryder Cup and a spacious home in tony Northfield thanks in no small part to the $28 million he's amassed in career winnings. He comes into the tournament riding the momentum of a third-place finish in last weekend's Tour Championship, a performance that earned him $468,000.
Despite the fact that he lives only 25 miles from Medinah, Donald said he hasn't played the course nearly as much as you or I might if we could.
"I don't play here consistently when I'm home," he said. "Obviously I played the PGA here in 2006 and I played here a couple times in the past few weeks just to get a feel for the course."
As for how a guy who has called the Chicago area his home for 15 years now can represent Team Europe while playing in a tournament just a few miles down the street from his actual backyard, Donald says he's never lost his love for his homeland.
"I've always considered myself British through and through," Donald said. "I enjoy living here, I feel very comfortable here but I don't think that changes how you feel about where you grew up. I grew up my first 19 years in England and still have a very close relationship with that country, my country."
So what made him stick around?
Donald says when he came to Chicago as a teenager, he fell in love and never stopped falling in love, finding both the love of his life—his wife—and a place he says just felt like home.
"The thing that appeals to me about Chicago is that the people are very friendly," he said. "They're very much into their sports and they get into it and they get raucous and they get loud but from what I've seen, they're respectful fans."
He also still has a very close relationship with his alma mater.
Donald says he's fully aware he won't be the only one representing Northwestern on Saturday. He could be on the fifth hole of his Ryder Cup match right around the time the Wildcats football team will aim for its fifth straight win with an 11 a.m. kickoff against Indiana.
When asked how often he'll be checking scores, his response is quick.
"Midround," he said jokingly. "I'm very proud of Northwestern. I know there's been talk of us going maybe 6-, 7-0 to start the season, which would be great for Northwestern. As an alum, I'm always keeping an eye on things."
He may have time to check a score here or there, but he's not going to have enough free time to show his teammates around the Windy City. Donald and others say the Ryder Cup is a fairly intense experience, leaving little time for lollygagging.
Were his teammates to come back and see him, however, he'd have a pretty solid day planned.
"I would probably start off at Wrigley, we'd probably down to Lincoln Park," he said. "If we weren't playing golf the next day, obviously we'd have a few beers in Lincoln Park, then catch a Cubs game. Then maybe go down to Michigan Avenue to check out some of the sights down there, Buckingham Fountain, the Bean, just take in the city really."
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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