Donald in the hunt
08 Apr 2011 - 21:00:11
Luke Donald equalled the lowest round of his Masters career on Friday - and while it did not compare to what Rory McIlroy did in the first round it kept the world number four's hopes of a first major title alive.
After recovering from three over par after 10 holes to open with a level par 72 Donald added a 68 to stand four under at the halfway mark in Augusta. That was six adrift of his 21-year-old Ryder Cup team-mate, but McIlroy - two ahead of Korean KJ Choi - still had the back nine to come.
Donald was playing with 51-year-old Fred Couples, who did even better than him on the first two days with a five under aggregate that put him in joint fourth spot with fellow American Ricky Barnes and Choi's compatriot YE Yang. Couples led last year after starting with a 66 and finished sixth.
McIlroy had still to record a bogey in the event after 27 holes, picking up further birdies on the second and fifth to go with his dazzling opening 65 and then hitting his approach to within five feet of the flag at the 460-yard ninth. Spain's big-hitter Alvaro Quiros had been joint leader overnight, but a double bogey five on the short 12th set him back.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods had still to make their presence felt. Mickelson's chances of a successful defence and a fourth green jacket in eight years were hit by three bogeys in four holes from the third.
In typical fashion the tournament favourite, a winner in Houston on Sunday, then birdied three of the next four, but he bogeyed the 11th after failing to find the green for the second day in a row and missed out on birdie chances at the 13th and 15th, Augusta's two par fives on the inward half. All that meant he was two under with two to play and in a tie for 19th.
Woods teed off again one further back and a birdie at the long second was sandwiched between two bogeys to leave him level par and joint 34th. It is only the top 44 and ties who qualify for the final 36 holes, plus anybody within 10 strokes of the lead. McIlroy could have a great say in where the axe falls as a result.
Ian Poulter made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last for a 69 that lifted him from two over to one under. Paul Casey remained two under with a 72 and Justin Rose was staging a valiant attempt to survive. From three over with six to go he eagled the 13th and birdied the 14th and 16th to stand level par.
Ross Fisher, three under overnight, was alongside Donald after an outward 35, but bogeyed the long 13th, while Scots Martin Laird and Sandy Lyle were one over and 10 over after nine and 14 holes respectively.
World number two Lee Westwood, last year's runner-up to Mickelson, was among the last players out and was one under after six, while US Open champion Graeme McDowell birdied the second to be one over. Padraig Harrington and Ian Woosnam, both of whom nearly pulled out before the start because of neck and hip problems, were five over and 11 over.