The Englishman has endured a frustrating year after his decision to overhaul his swing failed to pay dividends, and his poor run of results cost him a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles.
But Donald’s all-round game looked close to his best on day two in Sun City as he fired a flawless nine-birdie 63 which earned him a two-shot advantage over compatriot Ross Fisher at the halfway stage.
Donald, who announced last month that he intended to revert to the swing that took him to the top of the world rankings in 2011, roared to the turn in 30 and added three more birdies in five holes after the turn.
He was unable to match the course-record of 62 after closing with four pars, but he was understandably delighted to be heading into the weekend at the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s been a while since I’ve gone really low,” said Donald, who was two over after six holes of his opening round before three birdies on the inward half salvaged a respectable 71.
“I’ve been seeing some signs of a lot of improvement in the last few weeks and??some lower rounds in the mid to high 60s, but obviously nine birdies around this??place is a great round and something I was very pleased with.
“I felt very in control. It’s been a while since I felt like that. Everything??starts for me when I can feel like I can drive it in the fairway and then give??myself some opportunities, and obviously when the putter is warm it’s always one??of my best weapons in the bag.”
Donald was also involved in a bizarre incident on the 13th hole, where he was sizing up his approach when he was forced to take evasive action to avoid a charging baboon.
???We were walking up 13, saw one hiding in the tree, and got to my ball and suddenly Shane Lowry said, ‘Watch out!'” added Donald, who laughed off the encounter and went on to birdie the hole. ??
???And I turned around and the thing is galloping towards me. I jumped out of the way. My facial expression I’m sure was caught on camera and probably on the internet already by now. It gave me a little bit of a fright as he strolled right by me.???
Donald’s playing partner Fisher led by two overnight after his first-round 66, and he looked primed to retain his lead at halfway when he eagled the 10th and birdied the next to reach 11 under.
But a poor tee shot at 12 led to a double-bogey, and he ran up a scrappy six at the long 14th before parring in to return a two-under 70.
“I don’t feel I played as solidly as yesterday,” Fisher said. “I didn’t hit it as well off the tee. It would have been nice to have picked up a couple coming in, but six under yesterday and two under today, it’s moving in the right direction and I’m only two shots behind with two rounds to go.
“Yesterday we read the greens really well but today we over-read them. I had??seven or eight putts that I hit exactly where I wanted to, but I over-read the??borrow. Hopefully tomorrow they will go in again.”
When asked for his view on Donald’s round, Fisher added: “On any course, there’s a low score out there but you’ve got to go out and do it. So hats off to Luke, he obviously played fantastically well.”
Live coverage of the third round in Sun City starts Saturday at 8am on Sports 4 – your home of golf.