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Luke Donald takes over lead at halfway

Luke Donald’s bright pink trousers were not the only thing wowing the Wentworth crowd as he fired a second straight 68 to grab the lead after the PGA Championship second round on Friday.

On a day when the revamped West Course was again a hot topic of debate among the players, Donald was consistency personified as he finished on six-under 136 on another baking hot day on the outskirts of London.

That left the 32-year-old one stroke ahead of fellow Britons Ross Fisher (70) and Danny Willett (72) and South African James Kingston (69). Holder Paul Casey and triple major winner Padraig Harrington were among those a further shot adrift on 138.

“You have to plan around this course a little bit more, plot your way round,” Donald told reporters, referring to the layout remodelled by South African Ernie Els.

Plot was the key word as he mixed precise drives and irons with deft touches around the green, most noticeably on 15 where the Englishman saved par with a superb bunker escape and on 16 where he produced a fine up-and-down for par.

Donald then holed a 20-footer for a birdie at the monstrous 600-yard 17th.

“Before you could just step up at the 17th and 18th, give it a whack and usually make a couple of birdie fours,” he said.

“Now it’s very hard to hit it on the green at 17, it’s a narrow entrance, and on 18 it’s a very difficult second shot if you choose to go for it.

“I’ve enjoyed some of the changes to the course. I think the greens are more consistent and it’s still a tough challenge,” said the former Ryder Cup player.

Donald, without a victory since the U.S. PGA Tour’s 2006 Honda Classic, has shown encouraging signs of a return to form this year especially on the other side of the Atlantic.

Fellow Britons Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey believe his game is perfectly suited to the devilishly difficult West Course.

“He is the most patient player in the world,” said McIlroy after finishing on 143.

“It’s no surprise to see somebody like Luke in the lead,” said Casey, who employs Donald’s brother Christian as his caddie.

“Christian calls him ‘Plod’ so that’s all you need to know. He has plodded his way round very well.”

While several players have criticised the new-look 18th, the changes have curried favour with Harrington.

Told that owner Richard Caring was planning a few tweaks for next year, the genial Irishman replied: “I thought it was great — it just goes to show what I know.

“It’s a good, tough hole. Maybe there are too many people who think the easy option to layup in three shots is probably an issue.”

World number three Lee Westwood just made the cut after carding a 74 for 144, two over, and for the second day running he had issues with the course.

“You’re not sure how much sand is in the bunkers. The caddies have a real job raking them, I feel sorry for them,” said the Briton.

Fanny Sunesson, former caddie to Nick Faldo and now carrying Swede Henrik Stenson’s bag, told Reuters much the same after she spent several minutes in a sand trap.

“It’s a fact. They are hard to rake,” she said wearily.

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