Donald and Westwood prosper in the tempest

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The Independent Online

Here in the Sunshine State, David Duval posted a 59 to take a 20-shot lead at The Players Championship. OK, that's a blatant lie. But if Florida continues laying claim to being home of the bright stuff then we may as well stretch credibility just as far.

Here in the Sunshine State, David Duval posted a 59 to take a 20-shot lead at The Players Championship. OK, that's a blatant lie. But if Florida continues laying claim to being home of the bright stuff then we may as well stretch credibility just as far.

At least, the "state" part has seemed uncannily accurate. As the rain-soaked officials have desperately set about figuring out how they can possibly reach a finale some time before tomorrow evening, it has been impossible not to conclude that the May date being mooted for next season would be an inspired piece of rescheduling.

Having said that, there was the blessed sight of balls flying through air yesterday as the second round was eventually completed some 52 hours after it was first started. And as the 84 players who had survived the hasty cut scampered out to grab what play they could before yet another storm made its scheduled arrival in mid-afternoon, there was a sight as unexpected as the hail that hit Jacksonville - two Englishmen in the final group.

Not only that, but Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were installed by the bookies as favourites over their co-leaders on 10 under - the unheralded Americans, Joe Durant and Tim Herron - with Phil Mickelson the member of the so-called "Fab Four" making his way threateningly to centre stage on six under after finishing off his second round 68.

Vijay Singh was back on three under, one ahead of Ernie Els and two ahead of Tiger Woods, who squeezed through the cut with nothing to spare to continue a streak that stretches back 140 events to the 1997 Canadian Open. Tiger is as much a part of the weekend as Sunday is. The world No 2 was looking woefully out of sorts, however, as typified by a double bogey seven on the 11th as he closed out his second-round of 73. His drive went so wide right into the dripping pines that he actually had to hit his recovery a full 87 yards sideways just to find the fairway. Seeing Woods for the trees on this particular hole required a pair of binoculars, as well as a heat sensor.

It was in stark contrast to Donald, who was control personified as he moved his overnight score further into the red by one when he completed his final five holes. Well, almost. In truth, fortune has favoured the normally cautious as he has enjoyed the most extraordinary luck here. It happened twice on Thursday with two breaks from the gods and yesterday they were at it again. On the 16th his drive ended in the trees, resting against pine cones. Hole over - chip out, and take your punishment. Except what was this? A gap miraculously opening up that allowed him to advance it 150 yards up the fairway and, from there, pitch to five feet for birdie. "Another break, I guess," he said. "You never know what the contact will be because of the cones. I had to draw it and if I didn't it would have been in the water, but it worked out perfectly."

The greater powers were not being so kind to Padraig Harrington, who visited the water on the infamous 17th island-hole, for what the Dubliner worked out was the first time in well over 20 times of playing it. His resulting bogey left him with a four-under total, not to mention an entirely different view of a hole he had considered a doddle. He should have heeded Brad Faxon's words earlier in the week. "It's like an ex-girlfriend," the American said. "There's something I like about it, but I really don't want to go there again."

* Colin Montgomerie missed out on a magical 59 and a place in the US Masters in the Indonesia Open yesterday, when he had a 10ft birdie putt on the last hole of his final round to record the first sub-60 score on the European Tour, but left it several inches short of the cup. Montgomerie finished seven shots behind the winner, not enough to secure his place at Augusta next month. The Scot needed to win to be certain of moving into the world's top 50, but must now wait to see if he receives a special invitation.

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