Donald stays in the shadows but cannot locate missing putter

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.

News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore