Garcia and Donald hit Ryder trail on route 66

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The Independent Online

The top two players in the Omega European Masters go into the second round just a stroke behind the joint leaders, David Carter, Garry Houston and Jarmo Sandelin. As he did last year, when he won by five, Donald is staying at the Spaniard's home close to the course. "We enjoy each other's company," Garcia said after finishing with a 15-foot par-saving putt. "Although we want to beat each other in everything we do - and there's a lot of competitiveness there - we like each other."

When the world No 6 birdied five of his first seven holes - impressive stuff in front of his playing partner and next year's captain, Ian Woosnam - he threatened to leave Donald and the rest trailing in his wake. But he then three-putted the 10th and his only gain after that was a birdie at the long 15th.

Earlier, Donald had seven birdies, but also threw in bogeys at the 17th (his eighth) and fourth. A year ago he had nothing worse than a 67 on his debut in the event and he said: "The course seems to suit my game. I enjoy this place. You have to control the distance of your shots into the green. I'm not thinking about Ryder Cup points yet, although it would be nice to get off to a good start."

Carter, Houston and Sandelin all have a more immediate priority - saving their European Tour careers. They stand 121st, 126th and 146th on the Order of Merit respectively and only six tournaments remain for them to climb into the top 115 and thus avoid a return to the qualifying school.

Omega European Masters (Crans-sur-Sierre, Swit) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 65 D Carter, J Sandelin (Swe), G Houston. 66 L Donald, S Garcia (Sp), P Hedblom (Swe). 67 M Jonzon (Swe), C Cevaer (Fr), O Wilson, A Hansen (Den), L Westerberg (Swe), R Bland, P Broadhurst, P Casey. 68 J Axgren (Swe), A Maestroni (It), P Senior (Aus), J-A Larsen (Nor), P Sjoland (Swe), D Fichardt (SA), D McGrane (Irl), Peter Lawrie, P O'Malley (Aus), M Lundberg (Swe), P Golding.

* Fiji's Vijay Singh will miss this week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Massachusetts after suffering back spasms while playing table tennis with his son, Qass, at their Ponte Vedra Beach home.

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