Europeans flying high as Donald makes major move

Initially it was difficult to tell who had the biggest smile on their face after Luke Donald and Henrik Stenson grabbed a share of the lead in the USPGA Championship yesterday; the Englishman, the Swede, or Ian Woosnam. But then it became blindingly obvious. Woosnam did. Donald and Stenson do not do emotion.

And this icy demeanour is essentially what will make this pair such important members of the European team when they line up against the Americans in Co Kildare next month. That and their hot talents, of course.

Both were to the fore in this second round as the steely resolve and those graphite arms of theirs combined to post respective 68s that took them to eight-under upsides the token "unknown" American pacesetter in Billy Andrade. If anything, Stenson's showing was even more welcome (purely for the Europhiles among us, of course) than Donald's.

His Ryder Cup place has not been in question since a start to the season that was as good as anybody's in the world and better than anyone's whose surname did not happen to be Woods or Mickelson. But since then the 30-year-old's form has tailed off so badly that just one top-20 finish has arrived since April.

In golf runs like this, the "S" word is invariably wheeled out by all but the player who keeps his head where his ball often has been - i.e. in the sand. Stenson commendably bucked the trend. "Yes I have been in a slump, there's no getting away from it," he said. "But I've been working hard and it's starting to show a little bit now." Make that a big bit. This six-birdied, two-bogeyed statement of intent was a classic indication that he is back and was made all the more remarkable by his inability to capitalise on any of the par fives. When you hit it as far as Stenson does, a par can often be viewed as a bogey on the long holes, although, in fact, his round made little sense. Bogeying the easyish 15th and 18th, Stenson birdied holes he really had no right to in the ninth and 13th.

"I just stuck in there," he said. "It's always been my attitude: just keep on fighting." Indeed, it seems nothing can bother Stenson, certainly not the 76-year barren stretch back to Europe's last victory in the USPGA. With Sergio Garcia alongside another Swede in Daniel Chopra at five-under and with Ian Poulter at four-under, Tommy Armour's historic standing appears as much in threat as it ever has. It is incredible to think that Peter Alliss was not even born when the Scot lifted the Wanamaker Trophy in 1930.

David Howell, for one, believes this could be the year. In Stenson he sees a competitor who knows how to win. "He doesn't usually back off when in contention," said the Englishman who is, himself, still in with a squeak at two-under. "He certainly has the game and the right mentality to pull it off."

The latter might not apply Donald, who throughout his career has always managed to throw in a stinker to blot out the sweet smell of a major victory. That will now have to come today or tomorrow, though, as his first two rounds have been control personified. Yesterday, the 28-year-old managed to compile a bogey-free card and he was worthy of the confident air that surrounded him as he stepped off the 18th.

But then, the lad from High Wycombe has looked comfortable all week, belying the pressure on him to ensure that he holds on to his precarious position on the last rung of the automatic standings. It has helped, no doubt, that the world No 11 lives in Chicago and has done since first attending college in the Windy City some 10 years ago. "Sleeping in your own bed is some advantage," he admitted.

Donald can do with all the help he can lay his golf gloves on as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were finishing off their personal shootout late last night with both very much still in the gunfight despite their bullets so often being wide of the target.

It was their cool hands of recovery keeping their scores in the minus figures with Woods at six-under with two remaining and Mickelson on four under.

There was a controversial beginning to Woods' round when a vicious hook was only averted from deep trouble by a numbskulled fan who stretched up his arm to stop its progress.

That allowed Woods to perform one of many miracle par escapes, although, in truth, he should really have been playing the ball from where it would have finished.

If a rules official was on hand he would have insisted on it, but as Woods could not have seen what had happened ­ there was a grassy knoll deflecting his vision ­ it could not really be deemed as the world No 1's fault. That would not stop the whispers, though.

Scores from Medinah

US unless stated

LEADING SECOND-ROUND SCORES

136 H Stenson (Swe) 68 68; B Andrade 67 69; L Donald 68 68.

137 D Love 68 69

138 C Riley 66 72; D Toms 71 67

139 S Micheel 69 70; D Chopra (Swe) 72 67; S Garcia (Sp) 69 70; S Stricker 72 67; T Clark (SA) 70 69

140 A Scott (Aus) 71 69; W Austin 71 69; Ian Poulter (GB) 70 70

141 J Byrd 69 72; O Browne 75 66; E Els (SA) 71 70; J B Holmes 71 70

142 N Green (Aus) 71 71; S O'Hair 72 70; J Furyk 70 72; D Howell (GB) 71 71; S Lowery 70 72; R Green (Aus) 73 69; J Kane 71 71

143 J Gore 70 73; K Perry 72 71; B Tway 72 71; J Rose (GB) 73 70; J Maggert 75 68; S Ames (Can) 74 69; S Appleby (Aus) 70 73; C Pavin 72 71; J Haas 75 68; C Warren 73 70; R Palmer 70 73; S Flesch 72 71; A Hansen (Den) 72 71; M A Jimenez (Sp) 70 73, H Slocum 73 70

144 R Karlsson (Swe) 71 73; D Wilson 74 70; H Tanihara (Japan) 73 71; J Sindelar 74 70; J Kelly 70 74; R Beem 75 69

145 A Oberholser 75 70; R Sabbatini (SA) 72 73; C Couch 74 71; A Cabrera (Arg) 74 71; V Singh (Fiji) 73 72; B Quigley 76 69; A Wall 73 72; M Small 72 73; C Schwartzel (SA) 72 73, C Howell 70 75

146 J Parnevik (Swe) 71 75; B Jobe 76 70; B Bryant 72 74; C Thomas 76 70; W Short 72 74; J Leonard 75 71; S Maruyama (Japan) 76 70; R Gamez 70 76; J Daly 71 75; J Rollins 73 73; A Buckle (Aus) 73 73; B Estes 74 72; P Perez 73 73

147 L Rinker 72 75; P Casey (GB) 74 73; N O'Hern (Aus) 74 73; P Azinger 74 73; F Couples 71 76; J Sluman 74 73; J Bickerton (GB) 73 74

148 S Dodd (GB) 73 75; N Fasth (Swe) 74 74; M Brooks 73 75; N Price (Zim) 75 73; C Pettersson (Swe) 72 76; T Lehman 77 71; C Montgomerie (GB) 77 71; A Romero (Arg) 71 77, G Bisconti 70 78; T Purdy 73 75, K Ferrie (GB) 70 78

149 C Wiemers 73 76; P Harrington (Irl) 75 74

150 K Mitchum 71 79; J Bohn 77 73; P Broadhurst (GB) 74 76

151 C Sullivan 79 72; B Langer (Ger) 76 75; J Aber 78 73

152 L Nelson 80 72; A Schulte 75 77; J Cranford 77 75

153 K Triplett 75 78; J Haas 74 79; T Pernice 77 76

155 R Johnson (Swe) 79 76; R Philo 82 73

157 M Brown 80 77

160 B Evans 81 79

*retired: M Calcavecchi; *withdrew: D Hart

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