Dubai World Championships: Donald boosted by strong finish as McIlroy maintains challenge
Luke Donald was back in control of his own destiny after three closing birdies gave him a second-round 68 at the Dubai World Championship today.
Needing a top-nine finish to be sure of completing the double of American and European Tour money lists - an unprecedented feat - England's world number one was down in 31st place when he three-putted the eighth.
But after pars on the next seven holes Donald made 15-foot putts on the 16th and long 18th and in between holed from 10 feet.
They brought him into a tie for 12th - still not quite where he wanted to be, but in a position to strike over the weekend.
"Just personally in terms of my mental approach, that was huge," said Donald of a finish that lifted him to four under par, five behind new leader Paul Lawrie, who still had 10 holes to play.
He will take the Order of Merit wherever he finishes if Rory McIlroy, his only remaining challenger, fails to win the tournament, but the Ulsterman still had a great chance of that after birdies at the second and eighth put him in a tie for second, one back.
"It would be foolish of me to rely on him not winning," added Donald. "I know what's at stake and it's big deal to me.
"I was frustrated out there. I tried to stay patient, but it's tough. I want to finish off what I came here to do and those last three holes brought a smile to my face.
"There's certainly a lot of pressure. I'm still making a few mistakes - maybe because of what's at stake. When there's a lot on the line you feel more nervous, but sometimes it's a good thing."
Lawrie took over at the top when he birdied the first two holes and overnight pacesetter Peter Hanson, who had equalled the course record with his 64, bogeyed the third.
When former Open champion Lawrie almost holed-in-one at the fourth he was three clear, but he followed with three pars and McIlroy birdied the eighth to get closer and Hanson was two back again as well when he picked up his first stroke of the day on the long seventh.
Donald had been close to the right-hand bushes with his opening drive on the first day and after straying that way again he hit a provisional ball just in case.
The original was found in the deep rough, but he missed a four-foot par putt and thought to himself: "Not again".
Like his first round, though, he came back with three birdies in the next four, but covering the first 10 in one over left him in dire need of a strong finish - and he produced it.
McIlroy did not appear to have the same touch of magic on the greens as he did in covering the back nine in 30 yesterday. He missed three birdie chances from eight feet or less in the first six holes, but two-putted the long second and a three on the 461-yard eighth was a real boost, especially when Lawrie, bunkered off the tee, then bogeyed it to be only one ahead once more.