Donaldson maintains challenge for maiden victory

3/30/2012 1:27:17 PM
Jamie Donaldson  (Getty Images)
Jamie Donaldson (Getty Images)
Jamie Donaldson boosted his hopes of a first European Tour title at the 249th time of asking as the Welshman moved into a share of the clubhouse lead midway through the second round of the Sicilian Open.

The 36 year old, whose third-place finish in Morocco last week was his 32nd top ten on The European Tour, added a 71 to his opening 65 to reach eight under par at Verdura Golf Resort & Spa.

It could have been even better for Donaldson, who led for long spells of the morning session but bogeyed the ninth, his last.

That came after he mixed three bogeys with three birdies on his outward nine, birdied the sixth from ten feet and had a second straight birdie at the par five seventh.

Donaldson’s error at the end left him level with Swede Pelle Edberg, Dutchman Maarten Lafeber, overnight leader Paul Lawrie and English pair David Lynn and Simon Wakefield.

Like Donaldson, Lafeber looked like holding the outright lead when he notched the seventh birdie of his round at the 17th, but he dropped a shot at the last for a second consecutive 68.

“Last year my long game was horrible – I was hitting it all over the place,” said the former Dutch Open winner, who required a trip to Qualifying School last year after finishing 149th on The Race to Dubai.

“I haven’t played well enough for the last two years, and to go to Tour School for the first time since 1997 was a bit of a strange experience. So I’m happy to be back playing well again. 

“It’s looking pretty bunched at the moment. Jamie Donaldson is playing very well, and there’s some good players up there so it won’t be easy. It’s important for me to get off to a good start, and hopefully I can take more of the chances which come my way over the weekend.”

Edberg had six birdies, two bogeys and an eagle at the par five 11th as the Challenge Tour graduate seeks a first win on The European Tour.

In fact the leading six only boasted three titles between them – Lawrie’s win at the 2008 Open de España the most recent, with Lafeber and Lynn picking up their only victories in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

Lynn holed a 50 footer at the ninth for one of four birdies in a 69, while his compatriot Wakefield, who had the fourth runner-up finish of his career in Austria last season, signed for a bogey-free 67.

“It was just one those days when everything went right,” said Wakefield. “I hit every shot I wanted to hit, and managed to hole my fair share of putts, so I’m delighted.

“The company’s been great, the weather’s perfect and there aren’t many more scenic places like this to play golf, so I’ve really enjoyed myself. It makes you feel a bit more relaxed, and I play my best golf when I am relaxed.”

Lawrie was unable to build on his course record 64 in the first round, mixing three birdies with three bogeys in a level par 72.

On the course Dane Søren Kjeldsen made it a seven-way tie for the top when he birdied the long fourth, while 24 players were within two shots of lead – amongst them former US PGA Championship winner Rich Beem.

The American had a second straight 69 to lie six under at the halfway stage.

As the afternoon session unfolded the leading group swelled to an incredible 11 players, with Shane Lowry, Robert Coles, Richard Green and Alex Haindl all advancing to eight under.

South African Haindl, who began the tournament with five straight birdies on Thursday, was two under after seven, while Irishman Lowry was three under for the day with five to play and Australian left-hander Green also three under a hole behind.

Englishman Coles, another player looking to break his European Tour duck, had six birdies in his first 11 holes, along with a bogey at the difficult ninth.

Argentina’s Tano Goya had also bogeyed the ninth en route to a 73 and six under total, after driving his ball onto the beach.