Donaldson holds the advantage

7/1/2012 4:25:10 PM
Donaldson on course to break title duck  (Getty Images)
Donaldson on course to break title duck (Getty Images)
Jamie Donaldson took a three-shot lead into the final four holes of The Irish Open at Royal Portrush.

The Welshman, seeking his first European Tour win in his 255th outing, was four under for the day after 14 with a host of players in contention behind him.

Donaldson had been playing error-free until the 11th when he planted an eight iron into the bunker from the tee.

His subsequent putt for par just missed the outside edge as he dropped back to fourteen under.

However, he rallied to recover that shot at the next before curling a glorious putt in for birdie on the 14th.

Rafa Bello-Cabrera became Donaldson’s biggest challenger with back-to-back birdies on the par four 15th and 16th.

But the Spaniard made an untimely error on the 17th when he miscued out of the rough. He salvaged a bogey to join Mikael Lundberg on 13 under.

Lundberg had been the morning’s most impressive performer, going out in 29 to gain the lead, before two dropped shots in the last three holes saw him falter at the finish.

When asked about his blistering front nine, the Swede said: “The best start I've ever had.  So I was extremely pleased.  Everything was going my way.  But then you have to finish it off, which I didn't really do but I'm still happy.”

US Open runner-up Graeme McDowell shot 66, his best round of the competition, but the local favourite was disappointed he was unable to make more of an impact for the sell-out crowd.

“I really wasn't seeing and feeling these greens like a man who had grown up here,” he said. “I struggled a little bit.”

Fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey, who ended on seven under for the tournament, paid tribute to the fans as another 30,000 flocked to Royal Portrush to see the final day’s play.

He said: “All of the players are saying this is by far the best tournament they have been to crowd-wise.”