Donald stays in the shadows but cannot locate missing putter
Friday 15 July 2011
A stranger to the game of golf would have been hard-pushed to recognise Luke Donald as the world no 1 yesterday, partly because there was very little accompanying razzmatazz – spectators were manifestly more interested in the group just ahead, which included a young Ulsterman called McIlroy – but partly also because Donald's short game, usually as reliable as a metronome, clicked only sporadically.
Donald carded a 71, a disappointment after a promising opening half of 34, and was narrowly outscored by Sergio Garcia alongside him, though Garcia too was rather downbeat afterwards, having bogeyed two of the last three holes to finish on 70, level par. Still, both men will consider themselves satisfactorily placed to make an assault on the leaderboard today.
Donald was steady enough with the longer clubs in the bag yesterday, but if he is to become the fifth Englishman after JH Taylor, Harry Vardon (twice), Henry Cotton and Reg Whitcombe to win an Open over these venerable Kentish links, he will need to rediscover his touch on and around the greens.
The 33-year-old usually wields a putter as surely as Simon Rattle does a baton, or, more topically, Harry Potter a wand. And indeed, when he almost casually rolled in a 15-footer for a birdie at the par-three third, it looked as though the championship's form horse, fresh from his convincing win in the Scottish Open, had already found his stride. But at the short sixth came the first hint that the metronome was a little out of sync, a dreadful chip by his towering standards leaving a missable putt that was duly missed, and although he made immediate amends by rattling in a 30-footer on the seventh, several more shortish putts slipped by. A brilliant wedge shot out of the left-hand rough on the 17th yielded the only single-putt of Donald's back nine, which is not the way majors are won. "It really could have been a very good round if I'd have had the putter going," he said afterwards. "I didn't quite see the lines as well as I would have hoped, but hopefully some of those missed opportunities will be gained in the next few days."
As for Garcia, the putter in his hands is sometimes less evocative of Harry Potter with a wand than Harry Redknapp, although in truth it was his driver that let him down yesterday, with particularly poor tee shots at the 17th and 18th giving him food for thought as he headed for the range past the poignant silhouettes of Seve Ballesteros that adorn the grandstands here. "It's hard enough already, so you want to keep your attention on the right things," said Garcia afterwards, when asked if his thoughts had strayed to his late, great compatriot during his round. But "yeah, he did come to mind here and there".
It is more than a decade now since Ballesteros anointed Garcia as his heir-apparent in European golf, and nobody is more keenly aware than the 31-year-old Spaniard himself that he has never quite lived up to his early billing. But he finished joint-seventh at last month's US Open and is rising up the rankings after a slump that made him step away from the game altogether for two months last year. Yesterday there were more than a few signs that he can still be a contender in a championship in which he has recorded six top-10 finishes since 2001, not least a brilliant approach to the par four 12th that left him with a tap-in birdie and the broad smile that not so long ago seemed to have faded for ever.
Latest in Sport
Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt: Examining the Impact of 'Taker's WWE WrestleMania return
Paul Scholes: Manchester City paid the price for not dealing with Barcelona's Sergio Busquets
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working. In fact, it may have backfired
Piers Morgan 'hurt' after Arsenal legend Bob Wilson questions his support for the Gunners and labels him a 'pompous individual'
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit