A lucky bounce off the rocks for a closing birdie gave Luke Donald something to smile about after a difficult day at Pebble Beach in the AT&T National Pro-Am.
Unable to maintain the form which had brought him a career-low, course record-equalling 62 in the first round at Spyglass Hill, Donald lost the lead to Canadian Mike Weir, but is still in touch thanks to his good fortune on the long 18th.
“I hit a good drive down the left side and had 236 to the front,” said the 28-year-old English star. “I was waiting for five or 10 minutes for the green to clear and my hands were pretty cold.
“I pulled it and luckily it bounced off the rocks just under the sea wall into the bunker and I got up and down from there. It saved me two shots.”
Instead of being six behind Weir, who at Poppy Hills added a 67 to his first day 63, Donald’s level par 72 kept him 10 under, only four back and in a tie for third with Swede Fredrik Jacobson and American Jonathan Byrd.
“You don’t often see a great round followed by another great round,” added Donald. “It must be something to do with the mental side.
“But it got considerably colder and it was just hard to keep your hands warm and keep your rhythm. It was a grind out there on the greens and it got frustrating at times.”
With Arron Oberholser three behind in second place Weir, runner-up to Phil Mickelson last year, is obviously in a strong position.
“I birdied my last three holes, which is a great way to finish,” said the left-hander.
Jacobson had eight birdies at Pebble Beach, but also threw in three bogeys as he continued his search for a first win on American soil.
Jose Maria Olazabal threatened to get in on the hunt when he opened with an eagle and turned in 31 at Poppy Hills, but then came nine straight pars and with a 67 the twice Masters champion was round in 67 and still has eight strokes to make up, as does Brian Davis following a 72 on the same course.
That was disappointing for the Londoner, who had led on the opening day before double-bogeying his last hole.
They share 20th spot, while Dubliner Paul McGinley is one stroke further back in a tie for 31st after a 68, also at Poppy Hills.
World number two Vijay Singh is on the same mark, defending champion Mickelson only three under and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is in danger of missing the cut at one under.
Greg Owen and Sandy Lyle are certainly on course for early exits. Owen, third last year, stands three over and Lyle is joint last on 14 over after a nightmare 82 at Poppy Hills.