Donald hits the front in Nedbank Golf Challengeon December 5, 2014
For one minute on Friday, the entire Nedbank Golf Challenge field stood still in a tribute to Nelson Mandela. And then an inspired Luke Donald paid his own tribute with a memorable round that earned him the lead going into the weekend.
With a magnificent nine-under-par 63, Donald climbed to 10 under par and two strokes clear of Ross Fisher, who signed for a 70.
“That minute’s silence was a poignant moment,” said Donald. “Nelson Mandela was a hero for the world and for South Africa, and it was nice to have that minute to think about his life and what he did.”
Donald’s flawless round of nine birdies was one shot shy of the official course record of 62 shot by Lee Westwood in 2011.
“It was a fun day,” said the former world number one, who admits he needed a round like this. “It’s been a while, so it’s nice to shoot a low one.”
Chasing the overnight lead of Fisher, Donald opened with two consecutive birdies and then produced one of his best performances on the front nine of the Gary Player Country Club in his seventh appearance in “Africa’s Major”. He turned in six under, and then added a further three birdies on the back nine.
“I’ve always found the front nine here to be the more testing of the two, so to be six under through there was the perfect start. Then I was able to keep the momentum going,” said the Englishman.
He had a bit of extra momentum on the 13th as well when he had to dodge a baboon running across the fairway.
Fisher was involved in an epic duel with Donald for most of the round, and edged ahead with his eagle on 10 and then a birdie on 11.
But a double bogey on the par-three 12th, when he had to take a drop from the bushes after a wayward tee shot, and then a bogey on 14 halted his progress.
Frenchman Alexander Levy is still well placed on six under, while the leading South Africans are on three under, including Charl Schwartzel and Tim Clark.
But it was quite clearly Donald’s day. And his job on the weekend has been made slightly easier with the unfortunate withdrawal of Welsh Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson.
Donaldson arrived on the practice range in preparation for Friday’s second round, but soon left. It was later confirmed that he had withdrawn because of a migraine and dizziness.