|Donald leads, lightning ends play in Sun City|
|Thursday, December 05, 2013 9:14 PM|
SUN CITY, South Africa — Luke Donald’s rapid start at the Nedbank Golf Challenge was halted by lightning on Thursday, leaving the former top-ranked Englishman ahead by two shots on 5 under through 11 holes of an incomplete opening round.
No one was able to play more than 12 holes on the first day at Sun City because of lightning and a thunderstorm.
Donald began the 30-man invitational with a birdie and an eagle and was 5 under when the day’s second interruption for lightning forced players off for good. He was two ahead of Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Bjorn.
“I feel good over the ball right now and I am playing with confidence,” Donald said, coming off a win in Japan two weeks ago.
Wales’ Donaldson played 12 holes, while Denmark’s Bjorn was 3 under with three birdies in his six holes. Brendon de Jonge was due to join those two on 3 under and two off the lead after spinning a wedge back into the hole from 110 yards for an eagle three on No. 9 right as the weather hooter sounded. His score wasn’t yet officially registered as his playing partners hadn’t completed the hole.
Playing for the first time since ending last season with the FedEx Cup and European money list title, Henrik Stenson was 1 under after seven and tied for fifth, with six straight pars after a birdie on No 1.
Boosted by his victory at the Phoenix Open, Donald’s quick start at Sun City came off sweetly struck iron shots into the greens at his opening two holes. He also picked up back-to-back birdies at the end of his opening nine.
Defending champion Martin Kaymer is in the mix at 2 under, while Charl Schwartzel led the South African challenge as one of seven players tied at 1 under par. Sergio Garica is also part of that group, as is Peter Uihlein of the United States.
Ernie Els was 3 over after seven in search of his fourth title at Sun City and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose was 4 over after eight. Only Australia’s Peter Senior, with three double bogeys in his first six holes to crash to 8 over through 10, was worse than Rose.
Having initially been kept off the course for nearly three hours through an earlier thunderstorm, the players came off for the second time in late afternoon and will all have to come back at 7:30 Friday morning to complete their opening rounds.
Els is considering cutting his golf schedule even more to spend time with his family, saying life on the road after 25 seasons as a pro is getting “tougher and tougher.”
The 4-time major winner has already slowed down over the past few years, playing 19 tournaments on the PGA Tour and only seven European Tour events last season.
The 44-year-old Els expects to trim that again, he announced at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, his first tournament in a month.
The South African, who turned professional in 1989, said that with his daughter Samantha now 14 and son Ben now 11 “there are other things that come into play.”
“It’s always been difficult leaving the house but now you really see your kids growing up and it gets more difficult,” Els said.
He almost skipped the Nedbank to stay on vacation with his family and had to send Samantha back home to Florida on her own for school while he set off in search of a fourth title at Sun City.
Els is recognizing the trend with a couple of other players on tour.
“Family life is important and you don’t want to miss out on their best years before they leave the house,” he said. “A lot of us are in that boat now. Phil (Mickelson) has kids the same age as mine, so does (Steve) Stricker. Guys get to my age and your kids get to teenage years and it becomes a bit of a difficult scenario. It’s getting tougher and tougher. The younger guys don’t have too many hassles travelling … but things change.
“I haven’t really got a game plan for next year yet but I definitely have to play a slightly different schedule. I’ve got to look at my schedule and see where I’m going to.”
One thing that will remain is his commitment to trying to win another major — maybe two. His British Open title in 2012, a decade after his first Claret Jug, bolstered Els’ hopes of another big win before he eases off completely.
“I’m 44 and with the equipment I can really stay with the longer hitters,” Els added. “I feel I have a chance. I just need to sharpen up some things, get the right venue and get the right mojo. Then I think we can pull something off again. It’s not going to be easy but I believe there are one or two left, so I’ll keep searching.”
Stacy Lewis takes lead in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Stacy Lewis shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday to take a 1-stroke lead during the suspended second round of the Dubai Ladies Masters.
The third-ranked Lewis, a 3-time winner this year on the LPGA Tour, had a 9-under 135 total at Emirates Golf Course in the Ladies European Tour’s season-ending tournament.
“The putts went in today,” Lewis said. “I made a little adjustment on the practice green and it seemed to work. I made a couple of long ones that I probably shouldn’t have made and it turned out to be a good day.
“On the longer putts, the grip handle was stopping instead of keeping going, so I changed that. I think I had 10 or 12 fewer putts and that made the difference. I think I had 24 putts today instead of 33.”
Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg was second after a 69. Spain’s Carlota Ciganda was 7 under after a 70, and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum was another stroke back after a 70.
Six players were unable to complete the round because of darkness.
Dyson handed suspended ban, fine for rules breach
VIRGINIA WATER, England — English golfer Simon Dyson has been handed a suspended 2-month ban from the European Tour and fined $49,000 after his rules violation at the BMW Masters in Shanghai in October.
Dyson attended a hearing Thursday where he was found guilty of a serious breach of the tour’s code of behavior for using his ball to press down a spike mark on the green in direct line of his short par putt.
His ban will become effective only if he commits another rules breach in the next 18 months.
A disciplinary panel of the European Tour found that Dyson’s actions were deliberate but that it was “not a premeditated act of cheating.” It also took Dyson’s previous good conduct on tour into account.
David Higgins leads Hong Kong Open by 1 shot
HONG KONG — David Higgins shot a 6-under 64 Thursday to lead the Hong Kong Open by one shot after the first round.
Higgins, who lost his European Tour card at the end of last season, was one stroke ahead of Andrea Pavan.
Seven others, including Seve Benson, Andrew Dodt and Sujjan Singh, were at 4 under.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez (70) three-putted for a bogey at the last hole to finish six shots behind Higgins.
Jaye Marie Green leads LPGA Tour Q-school
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jaye Marie Green shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to increase her lead to five strokes after the second round of the LPGA Tour’s qualifying tournament.
The 19-year-old Green, from Boca Raton, had a 14-under 130 total at LPGA International. She played the Hills Course on Thursday after shooting a course-record 62 on Wednesday on the Jones Course.
The top 20 players after the final round Sunday will earn Category 12 status, Nos. 21-45 and ties will receive membership in Category 17 and the other players who make the 72-hole cut will get Symetra Tour status.
Megan Grehan was second after a 68 on the Jones Course.
South Korea’s Seon Hwa Lee, a 4-time winner on the LPGA Tour, and Tiffany Joh were tied for third at 8 under. They each shot 70 on the Hills Course.
Amy Anderson, the 21-year-old former North Dakota State star who won the second stage of qualifying, was 7 under after a 69 on the Hills Course. She won a record 20 college titles.
Lorie Kane, the 48-year-old Canadian who has four LPGA Tour victories, was tied for 53rd at 1 over after a 73 on the Hills Course. South Korea’s Birdie Kim, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open champion, was tied for 66th at 2 over after a 72 on the Hills Course. Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, had a 73 on the Hills Course to move into a tie for 122nd at 6 over.