Donaldson in the frame to take first European tour title

Jamie Donaldson burst into contention for his first European tour title yesterday at the event which put him out of golf for six months last year.

Jamie Donaldson burst into contention for his first European tour title yesterday at the event which put him out of golf for six months last year.

The 28-year-old, a team-mate of Luke Donald and Paul Casey when Britain finished second in the world amateur team championship in 2000, defied more strong winds to shoot a 68 in the second round of the Spanish Open here.

On two under par at halfway, Donaldson was three behind the early clubhouse leader Peter Gustafsson and ready to pick up where he left off in agony 12 months ago. After an opening 65 on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura last year, the Macclesfield-based player was lying second behind his compatriot David Park. But he was unable to complete his second round because of a recurrence of back pains.

"It was a struggle to walk, let alone play," Donaldson remembered. "I'd had problems on and off since I was about 18, but the situation was getting worse and worse. If I hadn't stopped then, I don't think I'd be playing now."

Donaldson returned at the Dunhill links championship in October, made the cut and then finished 14th in his only other start of the year at the Madrid Open.

At 179 on the Order of Merit, the former Welsh amateur champion was granted a medical extension to his tour membership and already this season has finished eighth in Portugal and 11th in the Dubai Desert Classic.

* In South Carolina the Ulsterman Darren Clarke was on form with his driver as he hit a six-under-par 65 to lie in third place after the first day of the MCI Heritage. The Australian Peter Lonard was on top of the leaderboard after a 62, while the Frenchman Thomas Levet was two shots back in second.

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