Beaufort News

Donald has Heritage lead, with No. 1 spot looming

Even if Luke Donald wanted to escape the discussion of what will happen if he wins at Harbour Town Golf Links, he wouldn't be able to avoid it.

Between Twitter, Facebook and the 24-hour media cycle, Donald is well-aware that the world's No. 1 ranking would come along with the tartan jacket he would earn for winning this week's Heritage.

But it certainly hasn't gotten to his head so far.

After a 6-under-par 65 on Friday, Donald sits at 10 under and takes a one-shot lead into the weekend, giving him a chance to close out a victory in a tournament at which he has tied for second and tied for third the past two years.

"If I manage to go and win, being No. 1 is just the outcome," Donald said. "It's still about concentrating on the process. ... I can control where I hit the golf ball, and hopefully I'll give myself a good shot at it come Sunday."

To do so, he'll have to beat a load of big names on the leaderboard.

Defending champion Jim Furyk and young stars Camilo Villegas and Jason Day are at 8 under and tied for third along with Chad Campbell. Englishman Ian Poulter is tied with Ben Crane for seventh at 7 under.

Just ahead of that pack is first-round leader Garrett Willis, who is after his second PGA Tour victory -- and his first since winning his first start at the 2001 Tucson Open. Willis made two birdies in his last four holes to shoot 69 and stand at 9 under.

Willis might have held the lead for another day if he had taken advantage of the par-5s. He missed opportunities at Nos. 2 and 5, and made bogey on the par-4 10th and first holes, but he birdied his final hole of the day to sit alone in second and play his way into the final group today.

"Yesterday was a great round for me, and getting off to a bogey start (Friday) was kind of tough to swallow," Willis said. "To be able to shoot under par today under tough conditions ... I'm definitely pleased where I'm at."

For the second day in a row, relatively calm conditions at Harbour Town allowed for low scores -- and a crowded leaderboard. Furyk, Villegas and Day all finished at 8 under within minutes of one another, and at one point in the afternoon, seven players were tied for the lead.

Two of them -- Donald and Furyk -- have remarkable records at the Heritage in recent years. Donald tied for second when Brian Gay ran away from the field for a 10-shot victory in 2009 and tied for third a year ago. And Furyk had three top-five finishes in a span of five starts here before winning last year.

And Donald's record so far this season is just as impressive.

He has four top-10 finishes in five PGA Tour starts this season, including a win at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, his first win on the American tour since 2006.

"Winning hopefully breeds more winning," Donald said. "It gave me a boost of confidence. ... I think it alleviated a bit of pressure I put on myself to know that the hard work I've been doing paid off."

Another win not only would vault Donald to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but it also could move him to the top of the FedExCup standings despite having played only six events.

After Friday's round, he acknowledged ascending to the top spot in the world rankings would "be an honor and a great achievement," but when asked whether he felt like he really is the top player in the world, he simply cracked a wry smile.

"Not yet," he said.

By Sunday, that might change.