Donaldson edges closer to Ryder Cup
10:12pm Thursday 21st August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Jamie Donaldson moved a step closer to making the European Ryder Cup team with a sparkling 66 in the first round of the D+D REAL Czech Masters.
The Welshman currently holds the eighth of nine automatic places for the team in Gleneagles due to his position on the world points list but a combined winning haul of just under 30,000 euros (£24,000) in the Czech Republic and in Italy next week would see him qualify via the European list.
And a six-under par round in Prague on Thursday gave the 38-year-old a one-shot lead in a tournament which carries a 166,660 euro (£128,000) first prize.
Donaldson may not have to secure the necessary euros this week and next but qualification from the European list would be a relief with Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher also battling it out for the final place in the world standings.
McDowell, Donald and Poulter are all playing in the Barclays in New Jersey this week but Gallacher is also present in eastern Europe and fired a two-under par 70 playing alongside Donaldson.
Both men opened with a birdie but Donaldson dropped a shot on the third before further birdies at the fourth, eighth and ninth saw him reach the turn in 33.
Another shot was dropped on 11 but birdies at 12, 14, 17 and 18 saw Donaldson come home in the same score and secure a one-shot lead over Sweden's Mikael Lundberg.
Gallacher's round was more consistent as he enjoyed a run of nine pars from two to 10 before a dropped shot on 11 had him level for the day.
But two further birdies followed on 12 and 17 to move the Scot into red figures.
There was a 10-way tie for third place which included England's Paul Waring, Kenneth Ferrie, Danny Willett, Lee Slattery and Matthew Nixon, while Wales' Bradley Dredge was also in the group.
A cluster of nine men finished a further stroke back while Scotland's Gallacher finished alongside Holland's Joost Luiten, another rival for Donaldson's place in Paul McGinley's team on 70 for the opening day.
Following his opening round, Donaldson told europeantour.com: "I played nicely - the course was playing tough early on, quite windy and then died down late but that finish is pretty tough, so I'm happy with the result.
"I know what I've got to do this week so it's just a case of going out and doing it. It's another golf tournament where you've got to go out there and play as well as you can and contend to win the tournament.
"I'm in a position to do that now; I just need more of the same over the next three rounds.
"There are other things circling around this result but you have to get on with it and keep doing the same things you've been doing every week."