Donald’s 64 has him walking tall

Luke Donald has admitted feeling “a little bit invincible” after shooting a 64 to lead by two shots after day one at Wentworth.

Luke Donald has admitted feeling “a little bit invincible” after he shot a stunning 7-under-par 64 in Thursday’s first round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Donald took his two-shot lead over the rest of the field early and kept it for the remainder of the round, which was eventually suspended due to bad light after a 36-minute rain delay late in the afternoon. Five groups will resume tomorrow morning at 08:45am to complete their rounds, while round two will start at its regularly scheduled time of 7:00am.

In finishing top of the leaderboard, Donald, the World No 2 and early leader in the clubhouse, left World No 1 Lee Westwood choking in his dust as he sought to win this flagship event of the European Tour and oust his fellow Englishman and Ryder Cup team-mate from the top spot on the World Rankings.

Four days after he just missed out on dethroning Westwood when losing the Volvo World Match play final to Ian Poulter, Donald, last year’s runner-up here, threw down the gauntlet with a sparkling eight-birdie display in the wet and windy conditions.

Donald’s only mistake came when he pulled his approach to the 480 yard 12th into the trees and had to chip out sideways. But he was already five under when that bogey came and over the closing stretch he picked up further strokes on the 13th, 16th and 17th holes.

The 17th on Sunday was where he came unstuck last year, taking a seven that ended his challenge right at the death. But that costly error seemed a distant memory when he approached the tee today.

“It’s hard to block stuff like that out sometimes, but I was hitting the driver great.

“I just stepped up there and striped one right down the middle.”

His sparkling 64 equalled his lowest on The European Tour, and afterwards he said: “That was probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever played, to be honest.

“It was tough conditions out there – the wind was swirling, there was some rain showers, and this isn’t an easy course in the best of conditions.

“So to pretty much have total control of the golf ball today doesn’t happen very often, but that’s how I felt today. I was just seeing the shots and I was able to hit them. So it was all very, very satisfactory – very, very pleasing.

“I guess you feel a little bit invincible. You’re out there and just have a lot of good feelings, that there’s not a lot of negativity that creeps in. Everything is positive around you – you’re seeing the shots well and everything is working.”

The Ryder Cup star had his captain of last year, Colin Montgomerie alongside him for a while, but the 47-year-old – without a top-ten finish for almost three years and in 462nd place on the Official World Golf Rankings list – bogeyed the 15th and 16th. Monty eventually signed for a 69.

That left the swiftly-rising 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero in second place on five under, two behind Donald, where he would stay till the end of play to be joined by Swede Johan Edfors.

Late in the day, another Swede, and relative newcomer, Oscar Floren had jumped to four under through 14 holes to lie alone in fourth when play was suspended.

Manassero, flying high once again, could move into the world’s top 15 if he captures his third European Tour title this weekend.

He dropped his first shot of the day at the 15th, but by birdying two of the last three holes, he was able to sign for a five-under-par 66.

“It was really good, I played really solid,” he said. “I hit the ball well, didn’t miss many shots, which I think, in conditions like this, on this course, is key.

“It’s tough and the course is firm, but I managed to finally play a good, solid round, and that was the key to my five under. The course is playing really firm this week. Putting is not easy, but if you put the ball in play, you’ve done more than 50 per cent.”

Luke Donald was paid a huge compliment by Colin Montgomerie afterwards.

“He is a better player than I ever was,” Montgomerie, an eight time European Tour leading money-winner and a five time runner-up in majors, said afterwards.

“I relied wholeheartedly on hitting fairways and greens. He has a much better short game.

“He’s playing the best golf in the world right now and not only can I see him winning this, I can see a European win at the US Open again.

“When we discussed the picks for the Ryder Cup he was very much the first-choice pick.”

Rory McIlroy had two double bogeys in his 76, defending champion Simon Khan matched that, and US Open champion Graeme McDowell was only one better.

Masters winner Charl Schwartzel shot a nasty 79, US PGA champ Martin Kaymer could do no better than a 74, Paul McGinley shot 80 and Nick Dougherty’s horror start to 2011 – 10 missed cuts out of 10 – continued with an 82.

With so many high scores about (the four current major holders are a combined 20 over par), it underlines just how great Donald was on the day.

Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal was one of three players to quit during the first round of the BMW PGA Championship.

Plagued by rheumatic pains in recent years the 45-year-old withdrew with a back problem at five over par after just seven holes.

England’s Paul Waring (hand) and Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen (rib) also withdrew with injury problems.

Some interesting facts:

Luke Donald’s 7-under 64 equalled his lowest-career round on The European Tour. He previously shot 64 in the 2005 Volvo Masters, the 2007 Barclays Scottish Open and 2008 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

His 64 beats his previous low round of 65 posted in the final round in 2008.

It is also his lowest opening round on The European Tour, beating his 65 in the 2010 Madrid Masters.

Matteo Manassero’s 5-under 66 was his first career round in the 60s in this particular championship and equalled his lowest first round of the 2011 season.

Colin Montgomerie’s 69 matched his lowest opening round of the season and was the fifth time he has shot this score in 2011.

His 69 was his 40th career score in the 60s in this championship and equals the record of Sir Nick Faldo for the most scores in the 60’s in the history of the championship.