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Fri 9 Dec 2011 04:47 PM

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Donald fights back in battle with McIlroy in Dubai

World number one finishes second round in Dubai just three shots behind Irishman

Donald fights back in battle with McIlroy in Dubai
Luke Donald

Luke Donald weaved his own brand of desert magic at the Dubai World Championship on Friday to get back on track in his battle with Rory McIlroy for European number one honours.

The spirits of world number one Donald nosedived when he struggled to a level-par opening round of 72 but a birdie hat-trick from the 16th a day later meant he followed up with an improved 68 and a four-under tally of 140.

That left him just three shots behind McIlroy who bogeyed the last hole to finish five shots shy of leader Alvaro Quiros.

"Just in terms of my mental approach for the next couple of days, that was huge," Donald told reporters. "To make three birdies in a row will hopefully make the next two days a little easier."

An errant driver cost the 34-year-old dear on Thursday but he remedied the situation after a tip from his coach Pat Goss.

"Pat looked at the television coverage last night and it looked like for some of those tee shots I was getting a bit rushed, a little bit hurried starting the swing with my legs," said Donald.

"I just worked on that and for the most part kept it out of the scrub today. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens so there are a lot of good things to build on."

Donald, however, said his all-round game was still far from perfect.

"It was still a struggle today. I've been making a few uncharacteristic mistakes and I'm not sure what it is down to, maybe it's down to what is at stake this week," said the Englishman.

"I'm making too many unforced errors and I need to play the weekend like Luke Donald knows how to play."

Donald, who has already won the U.S. PGA Tour money list, is bidding to become the first player to land the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic and he needs to finish no worse than equal ninth in Dubai with no more than one other player.

If he succeeds in doing that then McIlroy, who is still out on the course, knows his money-list race will be run even if the Northern Irishman achieves victory in the tournament.

Donald said anxiety frequently got the better of him during his second round.

"I was frustrated out there and I need to stay as patient as I can," he explained. "I tried to go out and enjoy it and know that it's just a game but it's tough to do that.

"There is a lot at stake and I want to do my best and try to finish off what I came here to do. But those last three birdies brought a smile to my face."

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