Donaldson leads Irish Open by one, Harrington two back heading to finale

Jamie Donaldson
Getty Images
Jamie Donaldson moved to 12 under despite a mixed round that featured an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys at Royal Portrush on Saturday.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012 | 4:41 p.m.

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- Jamie Donaldson shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Irish Open.

Donaldson moved to 12 under despite a mixed round that featured an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys. The Welshman is one shot ahead of England's Anthony Wall, with Padraig Harrington and Mark Foster another shot back at 10 under.

Rory McIlroy couldn't climb into contention, though he did climb 13 spots into a tie for 11th with a 71, while France's Gregory Bourdy toppled from the leaderboard with an 80.

McIlroy still needs to make up six shots on the final day after parring every hole on the back nine Saturday.

Bourdy entered the third round with a one-shot lead but is now eight off the pace after six bogeys and two doubles.

Donaldson, winless in his 244 European Tour starts, will play Sunday with Wall, winless in his last 364. The pair have the same aim, but have taken a very different approach to the week.

While Donaldson is staying in a boutique hotel that, according to the local tourist board, is "a unique accommodation experience" that "sets a new standard" for the area, Wall is in a caravan (trailer) park.

"It's quite a posh caravan -- it's got running water, it's got gas," said the 37-year-old Londoner after battling wind and heavy rain for a brilliant 67 he described as "probably the best round I've ever played."

"I didn't want to stay in town because it was going to be quite boisterous," said Wall, who is sharing his trailer with fellow player Andrew Marshall. "I knew we would have a bit of fun and it's been nice to relax. Half the time you seem to be on your own and you're sort of killing time."

Donaldson has had no fewer than 32 top-10 finishes in his Tour career, but hopes his first-ever hole-in-one on the opening day was a sign of things to come.

"I've had a few chances, but at the end of the day I've not been good enough so far to stand on the last green holding the trophy," said the 36-year-old. "You've got to keep trying and it's one shot at a time, one hole at a time.

"The only person I am playing against, I suppose, is myself. I've got to stay out of my own way," he added. "Obviously Padraig is a class player, but it's me versus me really."

While James Morrison won about $120,000 for his ace at the 14th, Donaldson had to be content with a bottle of whisky and a ride-on plastic car for his baby son. He could have the last laugh, however. First prize is over $400,000, and the title would mean the world to him.

After an opening bogey, he eagled the long second from 10 feet, saved par from 20 feet at the fourth, then made birdie putts of 10 and 25 feet on the following two greens.

With conditions really tough -- amazingly there was still a crowd in excess of 30,000 for the first Irish Open north of the border since 1953 -- Wall caught him, but Donaldson edged back in front with another birdie at the 16th.

Wall had birdied three of the first four holes and then on the long ninth into the wind struck "the best drive and three-wood I've ever hit." He found the elevated green, two-putted to turn in 32 and after running up a six on the 478-yard next added further birdies at the 11th and 17th.

There was a real danger the last might spoil his day when his drive bounced off a spectator into a bush, but after taking a penalty drop his 7-iron third shot finished just six inches from the flag and allowed him to escape with a par.

Wall's one Tour victory came in South Africa 12 years ago. He had only two full seasons on the circuit behind him at the time, but though he has earned more than $7 million and comfortably kept his card every year since then, 40 more top-10 finishes have not included any titles.

Harrington therefore has more major titles than Donaldson and Wall have Tour wins between them.

"You might think I am the form card, but we are all going to have our little demons out there," said Harrington, who hasn’t won on the European Tour since the 2008 PGA Championship.

Foster, meanwhile, is chasing his first victory since 2003, while at 9 under fifth-placed Paul Waring is still not out of the running for a maiden win that would be truly stunning.

This is his first Tour event since the BMW PGA Championship in May last year. He suffered a wrist injury at Wentworth, underwent wrist surgery soon afterward and resumed full practicing only a few weeks ago.