A stranger to the game of golf would have been hard-pushed to recognise Luke Donald as the world No 1 yesterday, partly because there was very little accompanying razzmatazz -- as spectators were manifestly more interested in the group just ahead, which included a young Ulsterman called McIlroy -- but partly also because Donald's short game, usually as reliable as a metronome, clicked only sporadically.
Donald carded a 71, a disappointment after a promising opening half of 34, and was narrowly outscored by Sergio Garcia alongside him, despite the Spaniard bogeying two of the last three holes to finish on 70, level par. Still, both men will consider themselves satisfactorily placed to make an assault on the leaderboard today.
When Donald almost casually rolled in a 15-footer for a birdie at the par-three third, it looked as though the championship's form horse, fresh from his convincing win in the Scottish Open, had already found his stride.
But at the short sixth came the first hint that the metronome was a little out of sync, a dreadful chip by his towering standards leaving a missable putt that was duly missed, and although he made immediate amends by rattling in a 30-footer on the seventh, several more shortish putts slipped by.
A brilliant wedge shot out of the rough on the 17th yielded the only single-putt of Donald's back nine, which is not the way Majors are won.
"It really could have been a very good round if I'd have had the putter going," he said.
As for Garcia, it was his driver that let him down yesterday, with particularly poor tee shots at the 17th and 18th giving him food for thought as he headed for the range past the poignant silhouettes of Seve Ballesteros that adorn the grandstands here.