Just as England and Australia fight it out in the fourth Test in the Ashes Series, there will be a similar battle at Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried in Germany as Englishman Luke Donald and Australian Brett Rumford go head to head in the final group, tied for the lead at 12 under par 132 in the BMW International Open.
For Donald, it was one of those days when the game comes easily. Seven birdies without a dropped shot for a 65 tells half the story but the fact that, apart from the third where he holed from ten feet, he had no more than a tap in for par is perhaps a clearer indication of how well he is striking the ball.
After a few quiet weeks after the US Open, the Ryder Cup player is again swinging it beautifully and carried on the good form which earned him a joint sixth finish in the WGC – NEC Invitational last week.
“It was one of those days where I felt like I saw a shot, hit a shot and it turned out how I wanted to play the shot,” said Donald. “It was one of those fun days to play golf.
“I played very nicely last week. I was very close to winning really if it wasn’t for a bad third round and a bad 18th hole. I was four over par for the 18th and only lost to Tiger by three. It was very close but it was nice to play three very solid rounds and it is nice to bring that confidence over with me.”
Donald has yet to win this year but will be defending his Omega European Masters title next week and is again peaking at a similar time of year.
Likewise Rumford is looking for his first win of the season but any thoughts of victory are kept firmly at the back of his mind. More important is simply to play well after a torrid run over the last two months. Two weeks at home have refreshed the Australian though, along with a few sessions with a psychologist, and he is again thinking clearly.
“I have tried to put the problems of the last few weeks in the past and tried to concentrate on this week,” said Rumford. “That is all I am concerned with. I am leading a golf tournament and that is all I should be focusing on at the moment. This week and this week only.”
First round joint leader Angel Cabrera, the second highest ranked player in the field in 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking, remains in a threatening position just one stroke off the lead despite running up a double bogey on the 16th where he drove in the water. His four under par 68 left him on 11 under par alongside England’s Simon Khan.
Khan also slipped up at the end, bogeying the last after getting tangled up in the thick rough. It was a disappointing end of a fine round that promised so much, having started with four birdies and an eagle two in his first six holes. An outward half of 30 and three more birdies after the turn took him to nine under for the round before the brakes were applied with dropped shots on the 14th and last. His 65 however leads him just one off the pace.
Another Englishman David Howell, looking to secure his position in the HSBC World Match Play Championship this week, lies in the group on ten under par and well within striking distance of the leaders while another Ryder Cup player, Ian Poulter, is only a stroke further back on nine under par 135.
The cut fell at four under par 140 with exactly 70 players progressing to the weekend. Among them was defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez, who recovered from a poor opening round with a six under par 66 to make the cut right on the mark.