Donald keeps his head after a rookie round to remember

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The Independent Online

There may have been more rain, more gloom and, most depressingly of all, more damned interruptions here yesterday but the sun shone brighter than it has for a long time on British golf as two of its young talents took their place at the head of the Masters leader board.

There may have been more rain, more gloom and, most depressingly of all, more damned interruptions at Augusta yesterday but the sun shone brighter than it has for a long time on British golf as two of its young talents took their place at the head of The Masters leader board.

If the appearance of Luke Donald in that headiest of heights was expected after he finished off his first round yesterday morning with a 68 to lie one behind the first-round leader, Chris DiMarco, then the sight of David Howell forming a line of three at five-under midway through his second round was a glorious bonus.

And when the thunderstorms dangerously twirling around eastern Georgia enforced the day's abandoment with the vast majority of the second round still to be played, Donald's and Howell's names were mystically suspended overnight at the top of the leader board.

If that didn't seem particularly troublesome to the English pair ­ not to mention their co-leader, the American DiMarco ­ then the rest of the field were muttering why the organisers had baffingly chosen to start the day's play at 9.45am and forsake a couple of hours of weather-blessed golf.

Howell could see the folly of that. "I don't know why they didn't start earlier," he said. "Looks as if maybe they should." The official line was that they had planned to mow, although the sceptics believed television's desire to have the big names on primetime was as much to blame.

Whatever, the upshot is that they will bust several guts ­ of players and caddies ­ to ensure 72 holes are completed by tomorrow evening, which should be feasible if the clouds take their leave as predicted. Many will expect the three leaders to do likewise and at least two of the big four to make their inexorable march through. Vijay Singh is the best-placed, one ominous shot behind the pacesetters.

The Fijian is still waiting to start his second round, as is Phil Mickelson who is handily placed on two under, despite being called in by officials to face an unsubstantiated complaint by Singh that his spikes had ripped up the 12th green. Four behind the defending champion labours a distinctly peeved-off Tiger Woods who will take little comfort in the fact that he is one clear of Ernie Els.

Indeed, the world No 2 will take little comfort in anything after watching his first putt go up the sharp slope on the sixth green and return to his feet. That bogey has summed up Woods'sweek so far.

In contrast, Howell's week has been straight from the gods as he and 11 family members have soaked up the Eden of Georgia. The Swindon 29-year-old's biggest fan is his 80-year-old grandmother, who has followed her pride and joy around every yard of the National course so far.

Dear old Pamela sure had some fun yesterday. Starting at level par, Howell betrayed his unassuming character by fearlessly speeding to five under after eight holes, with birdies on the 10th ­ his first as the organisers invoked the two-tee start again ­ the 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th. When he returns at 8.30am he has a six-footer for par on the 18th. If his cool 25-footer on the 11th is anything to go by, that will be a cinch.

That is reckoning without the nerves that are sure to strike, especially as this perennial top-10 finisher has not won a tournament since 1999. But Howell insists he has felt no butterflies at his first Masters so far and believes his debut in last year's Ryder Cup has much to do with that.

"You're never going to get anything more nerve-wracking than that," he said. "It stands you in good stead." Donald would doubtless agree, although his agonising joint-second placing at The Players Championship a fortnight ago, also did much to prepare him for the major cauldron.

As would the rain-induced mayhem of Sawgrass. "I'm getting quite used to all this starting and stopping," said the 27-year-old from High Wycombe who is based in Chicago. "I think it might suit me." Indeed, unflappability is a requirement in delays ­ Howell even confessed to taking a nap in the locker room ­ and Donald showed his increasing maturity by moving his overnight first-round score on by one with a birdie on the sixth.

That left him one off the first-round lead, set by DiMarco, who proved his love for Augusta by going out in the final group with Mickelson last year before fading to sixth.

Donald can only dream of replicating his co-leader, although his birdie at the par-five second of the two holes he managed to get in before the storms arrived yesterday afternoon, proved his game's well-being. "I know this is my first Masters and everything," he said. "But I've come into this week playing as good as I've ever played."

Darren Clarke could hardly claim that, but at level par will be fairly satisfied. As will Ian Poulter, whose outlandish get-ups have fairly sparkled in the gloom as the Milton Keynes mannequin matched the Ulsterman. Meanwhile, a double bogey on the 11th ­ his second ­ pegged Padraig Harrington to two over after three holes of his second round. The chase was on for the leading European to catch his young Ryder Cup team-mates.


US unless stated


C DiMarco


L Donald (GB), V Singh (Fiji)


M Hensby (Aus),
S Appleby (Aus)


R Palmer, P Mickelson


C Riley, T Levet (Fr),
R Goosen (SA), A Scott (Aus), T Bjorn (Den), *R Moore


J Kaye, D Howell (GB),
Wittenberg, F Funk,
S Verplank, I Poulter (GB),
P Harrington (Irl), N O'Hern (Aus), S Cink, C Parry (Aus),
M O'Meara, D Clarke (GB),
S Katayama (Japan)


T Immelman (SA),
R Pampling (Aus),
S Ames (Can), C Howell,
K J Choi (S Kor), C Campbell


J Maggert, J Ogilvie,
T Clark (SA), S Lyle (GB),
T Lehman, M Weir (Can),
M A Jimenez (Sp), T Woods,
B Langer (Ger)


K Triplett, J Kelly, S Micheel,
Duval, F Couples, C Stadler,
P Lonard (Aus), R Beem,
E Els (SA)


J Furyk, B Van Pelt, S Flesch,
T Herron, B Crenshaw, R Floyd,
D Love, C Franco (Par), J Haas, K Perry


T Watson, T Purdy, T Hamilton, *L List, A Cabrera (Arg),
R Allenby (Aus), F Jacobson (Swe), J Nicklaus, D Toms,
J Parnevik (Swe),
S Garcia (Sp),
J M Olazabal (Sp)


I Woosnam (GB), L Mize, N Price (Zim), L Westwood (GB)


T Aaron, P Casey (GB),
J Haeggman (Swe),
G McDowell (GB)


B Curtis, R Sabbatini (SA),
J Daly


*A Eaton, Z Johnson


*S Wilson (GB),
S Maruyama (Japan)


F Zoeller


C Coody, G Player (SA)

Withdrew: B Casper (106)

Retired: N Faldo (GB)

* denotes amateur


Leading second-round scores when play was suspended for the day

(US unless stated)

5 under

C DiMarco (after 19 holes)

D Howell (GB) (26)

L Donald (GB) (20)

4 under

V Singh (Fiji) (18)

3 under

M Hensby (Aus) (25)

S Appleby (Aus) (18)

2 under

P Mickelson (18)

K Triplett (26)

1 under

R Moore (18)

C Riley (23)

R Palmer (21)

T Bjorn (Den) (19)

A Scott (Aus) (18)

Play will start at 1300 BST today, with 15 players still to tee off in the second round