Donald on song as familiarity breeds content

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The Independent Online

It is unanimously accepted in the world of golf that Luke Donald has the game to win a US Open. The only trouble is that it is almost as widely believed that he does not have the stickability to go with the suitability. Is this the major when he at last adds the silverware to the undoubted talent?

The Englishman will return for the third round here in San Diego this morning with his name soaring up there on the leaderboard and his confidence riding just as high. Familiarity breeds contentment in this sport and the 30-year-old plainly likes this place.

In five visits to this coastal municipal he can boast two runner-up finishes and three more top 25 placings. If Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not happen to be in this field, and could not boast nine wins between them at Torrey Pines, then Donald could even be described as the most likely horse for this course.

As it is, Donald is just one of the more fancied competitors on a bunched-up scoreboard. A second 71 put him at level par, one behind the clubhouse leaders, Davis Love and DJ Trahan, and on the same mark as former champions, Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy. Three bogeys on the back nine might have taken some of the gloss off Donald's morning, although as he watched his playing partners, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, toiling on two torrid opening days, he realised that the slip-ups are inevitable. It is just a case of keeping them to a minimum.

"Sometimes you have those patches when you just have to grind it out and I was pleased with the way I did that coming in," he said. "Level par is good here. You know, I came to San Diego with good good feelings. It's a course I feel comfortable on and that's been reflected in my score."

It is an entirely different outlook for Poulter and Colin Montgomerie. The former pulled out with an injured wrist with three holes remaining, although his pride had also taken a bashing due to two double bogeys and a treble bogey. At 14-over he was on his way home whatever and left himself that bit longer to get to the airport. A US Open official said no reason for the withdrawal was given, while Donald was just as mystified. "I've no idea why [Poulter pulled out]," he said. "He just said he was off and that was it. He said 'goodbye and good luck' and walked in."

Montgomerie was not quite as gracious, hurriedly leaving the scene of his latest devastation following a 77 to go next to a 79. The 44-year-old (soon to be 45) is in the worst run of his career and the feeling that he is on an inexorable decline will only intensify after this setback. Surely now it is time for Donald and the rest of the British golden generation to take up the Scot's mantle.

Alas, it will not be carried by Justin Rose; not this weekend anyway. The world No 6 was supposedly Europe's best chance of filling the void that stretches back to Tony Jacklin's win at Hazeltine in 1970, but he returned to the wretched form that blighted his start to this season with a nine-over total that left him adrift. He was overshadowed by the achievement of an unknown countryman in Robert Dinwiddie. The European Tour rookie added a 71 to a 73 to feature at two-over. With Lee Westwood teeing off in the afternoon at one-under there was plenty to capture British interest.

Not that the Americans were watching. They are inevitably obsessed by the "super group" pairing of Mickelson and Woods and the course did not begin to fill up until they were due to reconvene their personal battle at level par and one-over respectively.

By the time the world Nos 1 and 2 had started, Padraig Harrington had already proven that there are low scores to be had out there with a 67 to drag his own way back into contention. A first-round 77 had seemingly wrecked the Open champion's chances but at three-over his hopes are very much alive. Harrington somehow negotiated 18 holes without a bogey, a startling achievement considering the state of the putting surfaces. There has been much grumbling about their consistency, with Rose declaring: "These are the worst greens I've ever putted on in a US Open."

Sergio Garcia was, understandably, not quite as negative after continuing his recovery from his disastrous opening seven holes on Thursday in which he was six-over. The Spaniard fired a 70 yesterday and, like Harrington, at four-over is far from corpsed. "The greens have been as different as night and day," said Garcia. "There were footprints all over them yesterday, but they were much easier to putt on today. I feel like I'm back in the race. I'm two-under par for the last 29 holes and I'll take encouragement from that."

Indeed, so should all of Europe. After a largely miserable first day there had been something of a blue and gold fight-back.

Latest scores from the US Open

US unless stated

Early second-round scores

141 D J Trahan 72 69; D Love 72 69.

142 L Donald (Eng) 71 61; E Els (SA) 70 72; G Ogilvy (Aus) 68 73.

144 R Dinwiddie (Eng) 73 71

145 B Bryant 75 70; S Cink 72 73; K Streelman 68 77

146 H Mahan 72 74; S Garcia (Sp) 76 70

147 J Mills (Can) 72 75; M Weir (Can) 73 74

148 T Immelman (SA) 75 73

149 J Lyle (Aus) 75 74; V Singh (Fiji) 71 78; C Campbell 77 72.

150 S Sterling 80 70; J Turcott 77 73; Z Johnson 76 74

151 R Rashell 81 70; R Sterne (SA) 76 75

152 N Taylor (Can) 77 75

153 M Allen 78 75

154 D J Brigman 79 75

155 C Beljan 76 79

162 A-H Murakami (Phil) 79 83

165 G Wolstenholme (Eng) 83 82

First round: 68 J Hicks, K Streelman. 69 E Axley, R Mediate, S Appleby (Aus). 70 R Karlsson (Swe), R Allenby (Aus), L Westwood (Eng), R Fowler. 71 P Mickelson, P Sheehan, V Singh (Fiji), A Romero (Arg), J Ogilvie, C Pettersson (Swe). 72 T Woods, K Stanley, O Wilson (Eng), C Wittenberg, W Austin, I Leggatt (Can), S Cink, J Mills (Can), H Mahan, S Verplank. 73 N Watney, R Fisher (Eng), R Dinwiddie (Eng), J Mallinger, S Marino, D Chopra (Swe), D Fathauer, B Quigley, M Weir (Can), B Jobe, B Weekley, S Stricker, R Sabbatini (SA), A Scott (Aus), J Merrick, M Kuchar, C Villegas (Col), T Clark (SA). 74 R Pampling (Aus), T Hamilton, T Taniguchi (Japan), A Baddeley (Aus), D A Points, D Johnson, M Thompson, A Kim, F Jacobson (Swe), J Furyk, K J Choi (S Kor), R Beem, R Imada (Japan), S Ames (Can), T Levet (Fr). 75 C Kirk, S English, B Bryant, M Kaymer (Ger), B Curtis, H Slocum, C Howell III, J Leonard, B Crane, M O'Meara, C Parry (Aus), K Tway, J Kelly, P Perez, L Janzen, J Lyle (Aus), J B Holmes, J Rollins, T Immelman (SA), M A Jimenez (Sp), J Byrd. 76 P Tomasulo, Z Johnson, A Dresser, D Toms, D Hearn (Can), C Beljan, D Wilson, S Garcia (Sp), A Forsyth (Sco), R Goosen (SA), J Lamielle, B Snedeker, R McGowan (Eng), R Sterne (SA), J Bohn. 77 M Letzig, R Garrigus, J Turcott, A Svoboda, B Watson, C Campbell, B Bryant, M Goggin (Aus), J Ellis, N Taylor (Can), J Parnevik (Swe), S Katayama (Japan). 78 M Campbell (NZ), S Hansen (Den), S Flesch, N Dougherty (Eng), S Piercy, M Allen, J Wilson, N Fasth (Swe), I Poulter (Eng), P Archer (Eng), B Kortan, H Stenson (Swe), F Figueroa (Sp), P Harrington (Irl). 79 C Montgomerie (Sco), J Quinney, A Cabrera (Arg), J Edfors (Swe), P Casey (Eng), J Rose (Eng), D J Brigman, A Murakami (Phil), J Choi (S Kor), J Gore. 80 S Sterling, G Chaussard, K Silva, C Barlow, J Cox, B Gaus, H Haas. 81 R Rashell, J Bors, J Henderson. 82 T Bertoni. 83 G Wolstenholme (Eng), B Collins, Y Benson (Can). 84 C Stroud, C Devlin (NIrl). 86 P Gasnier (Br), M Gilmore, M Quagliano, B Bergstol.