Donald finally three-putts – after 449 holes


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The Independent Online

For 449 holes, 25 rounds, seven tournaments, more than 100 hours, Luke Donald was faultless. Yesterday the streak ended. An eight-footer stayed above ground here and for the first time in 11 weeks the world No 1 had three-putted. Oh, the shame of it.

Of course, Donald would not be the perfectionist he is if he adopted that "so what?" attitude. "I'm upset," he said. "It's the little victories in golf that you look for. I didn't want to miss it."

The ghastly error came on his 16th hole in the first round of the Dunhill Links. In fairness, he was 70 feet away and the seventh green (he started on the 10th) is on the notorious side of tricky. The bogey saw him fall back and eventually sign for a three-under 69, three back from a group on six-under including Louis Oosthuizen. There was no need for Donald to be hard on himself. "I suppose it's pretty good considering how fast the greens are in the States," he said."

Pretty good? That is a run of which those such as Lee Westwood could only dream. The world No 2 was actually satisfied with his putting display yesterday after a season in which, to use his own technical assessment, "I've putted crap". Recently he sought the guidance of the English putting doctor Phil Kenyon. Rhythm was the answer.

"It felt much better today, " said Westwood after his 68 here. "I holed a few long ones and burned the edges on plenty of others, which I haven't been doing. For so long I've been walking after the ball when it was halfway to the hole, because I knew it wasn't on the right line."

Westwood agreed that with his peerless consistency tee-to-green he would be "dangerous" if the putter began to oblige. In fact, would be world No 1. Donald is clear in that race and also in the Order of Merit. But with over £500,000 on offer at this pro-am, taking place on three courses, there is still the intriguing possibility he can be caught by the finale in Dubai in December. A dead-eyed Westwood would be the obvious rival to catch him.

Rory McIlroy is actually second on the European money list, £1.4m behind Donald. A 70 here left him in touch, despite a triple bogey on the par-three 13th (his fourth). "I'm glad I had a good partner today," he said referring to his father, Gerry. "He carried me for 11 holes before I eventually removed my head from my arse. Solid day in the end."

Tom Lewis, the 20-year-old from Welwyn Garden City, was also at Kingsbarns and his 68 confirmed the pedigree of this burgeoning pro. This is just his second tournament in the paid ranks and, after his 10th place at last week's Austrian Open, he is targeting a top five here to help get him closer to the £200,000-plus mark he requires to earn his card for next season.

"I would have taken a round of four-under at the start of the day," said Lewis, who burst into the public eye at the Open in July when shooting a 65, a new low mark for an amateur. "But after finishing with a double-bogey seven on the last [the ninth hole] I'm disappointed. I should be on top of the leaderboard. The standard's good out here – but what I've discovered in this first fortnight is they are beatable."

Confident words from a confident young man. However, as it proved, he wasn't even top of the Walker Cup leaderboard. James Byrne also turned pro after Great Britain & Ireland's win earlier this month and he highlighted the quality of the crop. A five-under 67, also here at Kingsbarns, wasn't the worst way for the Scot to make his debut on Tour.

Graeme McDowell, the former US Open champion, signed for the same number and afterwards revealed how determined he is to recover his form. The Ulsterman has gone back to his long-time coach, Clive Tucker, meaning a demotion for Pete Cowen, the guru who oversees the likes of Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Lewi s and Oosthuizen. He has also told informed Tiger Woods he will not be defending the Chevron World Challenge, the tournament Woods is so proud of promoting, in December.