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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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Donald's hopes fade as Leonard springs to the fore

England’s Luke Donald will struggle to claim both the European and PGA Tour money list titles after a round of 71 on Friday.

Luke Donald
Luke Donald
Image: John Raoux/AP/Press Association Images

LUKE DONALD’S HOPES of creating history this weekend look unlikely after he slipped five off the pace at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Florida.

Hosted at Disney, the tournament is being led by Justin Leonard, Bio Kim and Henrik Stenson, all of whom are -12. Leonard described his as a “fun, easy day,” and it was every bit of that as he had a nine-under 63 for his lowest round of the year.

“I did call the tour a couple months ago and asked about my status. I’m exempt for next year, so I’m not playing with that kind of pressure,” Leonard said in his press conference afterwards. “I don’t know how, I just am. I gave the same look to the telephone. ‘How is this guy still exempt?’”

Leonard’s British Open win in 1997 came with a ten-year exemption. Starting in 2003, the tour began adding to the ten-year exemption with every win. Leonard won five times after 2003, thus he is exempt through 2012.

The leaders are two shots clear of Nick O’Hern with Gary Woodland among the group at nine-under. However, it’s all about the money list battle.

Webb Simpson and Donald are battling for the PGA Tour money title. They both played the opening two rounds at seven-under, meaning they will be paired again Saturday.

Simpson currently has a $363,029 lead and had a bogey on the final hole at Magnolia for a 69, while Donald battled a sinus infection and a lack of energy on his way to a 71. Their battle was summed up on the 12th hole, when Donald stuffed his tee shot into two feet and Simpson followed with a shot into three feet. Both made birdie.

“I think both of us are in the same mindset and trying to win the golf tournament,” Simpson said. “We want to beat not only each other, but we want to beat the field. I feel that’s just natural as competitors. He’s got a little further to go. All it takes is a good weekend, and he would be right there.”

Donald can finish no worse than a two-way tie for second, provided Simpson finishes down the leaderboard. It’s a tall order for the world No. 1 player. “I’m going to need to go low on the weekend,” he conceded.

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