Donald leads after his 'best round'

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The Independent Online

Luke Donald labelled yesterday's 64 in this BMW PGA Championship "one of the best rounds I've ever played" and went on to describe his emotions. "I guess I feel a little bit invincible," said the Englishman. None of his rivals were arguing. Well, apart from the "little bit" part.

Perhaps Lee Westwood's quip best summed up the supreme quality of this seven-under opening. When he walked off the West Course after his own mediocre 72, Westwood was requested to undertake a drugs test. "I don't know why they tested me," he said afterwards. "They should have drug-tested Luke after that 64."

Eight shots behind, Westwood now seems almost certain to lose his world No 1 tag to Donald here. All the latter requires is to finish in front of the former. In this form and in this mood, that should and will be the very minimum of Donald's ambitions.

"When I woke up this morning I thought anything under par would be a good score," said Donald, whose eight birdies helped him equal his lowest round on the European Tour. "It was tough conditions out there. The wind was swirling and there were rain showers. So to pretty much have total control of the ball today doesn't happen very often in golf."

Donald struggled to remember any loose shots. "I hit a poor second into 12 and paid the penalty there [with his only bogey]," said the 33-year-old. "But no, most of them I hit just as I saw them."

Putting too much stock in Thursday's action is the quickest way to the debtor's court, although so staggering is Donald's run of consistency it is hard not to envisage him being involved in the Sunday denouement. The 13 top-10 finishes in 14 events is irresistible enough but when put alongside the fact he came runner-up here last year the temptation is pushed towards punting point. Regardless of the alarm bells which remind that Donald has won just the one strokeplay event in the last five years.

The revamped and fast-running West Course clearly suits Donald, particularly when he is driving it this well. Certainly the memories of 2010 were forgotten when a wild slice on the penultimate hole cost him the championship. "The last few years have been a struggle off the tee," he said. "But I hit a lot of great tee-shots today. There were also a lot of good, solid irons and I finished off most of the putts."

The scoreboard only emphasised the excellence of his morning's work. Rory McIlroy cut a frustrated figure when storming off after a five-over 76, while his Ulster pal, Graeme McDowell did not fare much better with a 75. With the other five members of the world's top seven not featuring, it was left to the remarkable 18-year-old Matteo Manassero and the Swede Johan Edfors to lead the pursuit with a pair of 66s. Like Donald, Manassero is not the longest, but the youngest player to have won twice is solidity in golf spikes.

Of course, that was the way Colin Montgomerie used to be described, but the 47-year-old has been woefully erratic for the last few years. He is down in 462nd in the rankings and on Monday received a painful indication of his present standing. "My caddie sacked me," said Montgomerie, referring to Jason Hempelman's decision to switch to Francesco Molinari. "I used to be the one doing the sacking. That's where I am right now."

Where he is right now is back on the leaderboard he graced so often. Montgomerie's 69 was marred by three bogeys in the last four holes, but he was still happy. To think, he once won this event three times in succession. Yet that was deep in the Monty era; now we appear to be entering the Donald era.