Luke Donald surges into contention at Valero Texas Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 24/04/16 8:10pm
Luke Donald continued his recent resurgence as he fired a four-under 68 to move within two shots of the lead after the third round of the Valero Texas Open.
Donald, who arrived at TPC San Antonio on the back of his runner-up finish at last week's RBC Heritage, bogeyed the fifth but responded with five birdies to close on nine-under-par as Ricky Barnes vaulted into the outright lead after a seven-birdie 67.
Former world No 1 Donald opened with four solid pars before pulling his drive way left at the fifth and dropping a shot, but he drained a 35-foot putt for birdie at the next and converted a precise wedge to six feet on the eighth.
The Englishman's iron play was in good order as he picked up further shots at 12 and 15, and he holed another great putt from the fringe at the 17th before a sublime two-putt from almost 60 feet at the last capped an excellent day's work.
Barnes got off to a cracking start as he knocked his 190-yard approach stiff at the first and added further birdies at the third and sixth, although a blocked drive into thick rough at the ninth cost him a bogey.
But the American got back on track with three birdies in four holes from the 11th, including a superb 30-foot putt for a three at 12, and he got to 12 under with a neat pitch and putt from 90 yards at 17.
However, Barnes pulled his drive into deep trouble at the last and was unable to reach the green in three, and he could not avoid closing with a scrappy six.
Overnight leader Brendan Steele struggled throughout most of his round but managed to salvage a 72 with birdies at 14 and 17 which lifted him back into second place, while Donald shares third with Texas specialist Charley Hoffman, who had four birdies and two bogeys in his 70.
World No 13 Patrick Reed is alone on eight under after a battling 70, in which he parred the first 10 holes before dropping a shot at 11, but he revived his challenge with birdies at three of the last five holes.
Former FedExCup champion Billy Horschel (67) and Canadian Nick Taylor (66) carded rare flawless rounds to make huge strides up the leaderboard to seven under along with Padraig Harrington, who fired an entertaining 68.
Harrington turned in 34 and then chipped in for his fourth birdie of the day from the back of the 10th green, although he gave the shot straight back when he blocked his wedge approach to the 11th and failed to get up and down.
But the Irishman atoned with a superb wedge to four feet at the next which he converted for birdie, and after a delightful two at the 16th he almost chipped in for an eagle at 17 before a lapse in concentration cost him another bogey at the last.