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Luke Donald’s focus is on his European Ryder Cup team, but finds himself near top of leaderboard in South Africa

November 10, 2022

Stuart Franklin

Luke Donald’s main focus these days is on the European Ryder Cup team. Turns out, the 2023 captain still has some good golf left in the tank too.

The 44-year-old Englishman shot a first-round seven-under 65 Thursday at the DP World Tour’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player Country Club in Sun City. He’s only one shot behind leader Ryan Fox, who birdied the last two holes to shoot 64.

Donald is ranked 565th in the Official World Golf Ranking and although his first golf priority these days is the Ryder Cup this is still the 24th event he’s played this year. He has, however, missed 11 cuts and his best finish is a 16th-place tie at the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour back in March. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish since 2019.

On Thursday in South Africa, Donald was only one under after the first eight holes then birdied six of the last 10 holes, including three of the last four. He birdies Nos. 9, 10 and 11 to get to four under, then the late stretch pushed him to the top of the leaderboard.

“Yeah, that was a little bit unexpected to be honest,” Donald said. “I certainly wasn’t showing that much form coming into this week but I’ve been feeling a little bit better about my game.”

The 66-player field has plenty of potential European Ryder Cup members for Donald to watch. One of his vice captains, Edoardo Molinari, is tied for seventh place after shooting 69. Other potential members in the field, among others, are Tommy Fleetwood, Rasmus Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre and Guido Migliozzi.