WALES’ Jamie Donaldson shrugged off an unfortunate penalty to take a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
Donaldson completed a first round of 67 yesterday morning, play resuming at 7.30am after being abandoned for the day on Thursday afternoon after a second thunderstorm hit the course.
That left the 38-year-old one shot behind Spain’s Sergio Garcia, but a second round of 66 containing seven birdies and just one bogey took Donaldson to the top of the leaderboard.
The solitary dropped shot came on the par-five tenth after a front nine of 31, Donaldson finding a fairway bunker off the tee and hitting the lip of the bunker with his second shot.
Unluckily, the ball bounced back and hit the shaft of Donaldson’s club as he followed through, sending the ball back into the sand and resulting in a one-shot penalty.
However, after hitting his fourth shot down the fairway, Donaldson fired a superb approach from 150 yards to within a few feet of the pin to limit the damage, before picking up further shots on the 13th and 14th.
“These bizarre things happen and you just have to get on with it,” said Donaldson, who won his second European Tour title in Abu Dhabi in January and finished fifth in the 2013 Race to Dubai. “In the end it was a good six!
“I’ve played very nicely for the first two rounds and hit a lot of good shots so I am happy with the way I am playing. We had to play six holes of the first round and then back out after a 45-minute break for the second, so it’s been a long day.”
European number one Henrik Stenson and American Ryan Moore share second place on eight under, Moore shooting the lowest round of the day with a 65 and Stenson returning a 67, with neither player dropping a shot.
Defending champion Martin Kaymer and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn are a shot further back, with Garcia dropping back to five under after struggling to a 73.
In the other European Tour event being held this week, Greenock’s Chris Doak headed into the final two rounds of the Hong Kong Open breathing down the neck of the halfway leader, South African Jbe Kruger.
Finding the Fanling test a bit more to his liking than last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, the former Tartan Tour No 1 carded a second 68 to sit joint-sixth on four-under – three behind Kruger after he took route 66 to claim pole position.
“The conditions here are different to last week,” admitted Doak after bagging four birdies to cover the back nine in 33. “The grass is easier to judge and you have to shape the ball both ways, which I like.”
Having followed up securing his playing rights at the end of last season by making the cut in the first two events on the 2014 schedule, Doak has now put himself in a position to challenge for his maiden victory on the European Tour. “I’m excited about the weekend and it will be Christmas hampers for all if I can land a big cheque,” he joked.
Also still in with a chance of securing decent Festive pay-days are David Drysdale, Scott Henry and Alastair Forsyth – the trio all sitting tied for 49th on level-par after second rounds of 68, 72 and 72 respectively.
Meanwhile, the European Tour has announced that next week’s Nelson Mandela Championship will go ahead, but will start a day earlier – on Wednesday – to avoid a clash with Mandela’s state funeral on 15 December.
Last year’s inaugural event was won by Scott Jamieson, a proud recipient of the unique trophy.