Revitalised Donald rolls back years

Forgotten man of the English game shines at World Match Play Championship

Luke Donald saw off the persistent challenge of Ireland's Graeme McDowell to advance to the second round of the WGC World Match Play Championship here last night. The Englishman still has four more opponents to conquer if he is to contest Sunday's final. But he is looking more confident than he has in years.

In fact, he resembles an entirely different player than the one who had to withdraw in the most bizarre fashion possible in this same event last year. Donald was on the 18th tee when he reached out and shook the hand of a stunned Ernie Els. What was this? He was conceding, despite only having a few shots to play? The pain in his wrist was coursing panic through his veins and he had to leave right there and then to see his consultant in New York...

Fortunately, the medic assured him it was just a twinge and was not, as he feared, a recurrence of the tendon injury which kept him out of the 2008 Ryder Cup. He could continue his rehabilitation – but it would be long and it would be frustrating. Indeed, only now, in the first months of this new decade does Donald look like Donald again. On the back of a runner-up placing in Los Angeles last month, the forgotten man of English golf reminded all of his quality in his 2&1 defeat of McDowell. Eight birdies in 17 holes turned up the heat in the desert.

"For the second year running I ran into a buzz saw," said McDowell, who last year was knocked out by Zach Johnson. "Every time I had a sniff, Luke made a great putt. He putted his eyes out."

Long may it continue as this is an important week in the season for the 32-year-old. As he is based primarily in the States, the only hope of gaining an automatic berth on Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup side is to perform well in the top events. Donald knows what it is required. "The WGC events and majors are huge for me this year with the Ryder Cup in mind," he said. "It's always at the top of my goals."

Montgomerie will definitely want him at Celtic Manor. Donald has won five and a half points out of a possible seven in his two appearances in the biennial dust-up so far and his record in the Walker Cup was even more red-lettered. He played four singles and won four singles. Donald may not be the longest hitter but he is evidently suited to the mano-a-mano format.

Any competitor, however, will see the name of Geoff Ogilvy in the second round and quiver. The Australian is the undeniable master of this matchplay stuff, having reached the final three of the four times he has teed it up. That is a remarkable statistic in a shootout event as volatile as this. But then when he can wreak the 7&6 havoc which poor Alexander Noren was on the wrong end of yesterday morning, it is possible to understand why he is dominant. Ogilvy reeled off seven holes on the spin from the seventh, crushing the young Swedish debutant.

Earlier, Henrik Stenson, the 2007 winner, lasted just one hole before conceding his match to the American Ben Crane. Stenson woke up with the flu and had no energy on the range. So why try to play? A steadfast refusal to allow the weakness of his body conquer the strength of his mind? Er, no. The Swede needed to finish at least one hole so he could count this event in the 15 he needs to satisfy his PGA Tour membership. A farcical scenario, most would agree. Particularly as Stenson collected a $45,000 first-round loser prize in the process.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride