Despite further fallout over Casey's attack on American
golf culture earlier in the week that has left the 27-year-old
regretting his words, the Ryder Cup teammates racked up nine birdies to
surge to a 19-under-par total of 125.
Casey made all nine of his team's birdie putts -- all under 15
feet -- with sunny skies and a light breeze leaving the Real Club de
Golf course open to low scores.
"I actually felt I didn't play very well," Casey said.
The English had few problems. When they did, Donald saved pars
with crucial putts. After four straight birdies, Donald salvaged a
par from 12 feet on No. 7. On 10, he saved par from 20 feet.
"The putts were dropping well for us," Donald said. "There
were not many holes where we did not have a birdie chance."
They played well enough for England to pass Austrian dark horses Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele and sit six shots ahead of six other teams, including
overnight co-leader Ireland, home-favorite Spain and the United States,
whose Scott Verplank expressed resentment over Casey's comments
Casey and Donald faltered twice toward the end, bogeying
the last after saving par on the long 16th, where Casey had found
water with his only par-5 tee shot of the day.
At 18, a poor chip by Casey led to the
day's only bogey.
"It's going to leave a little bit of a sour taste in our
mouth," Donald said.
Still, they were well on course to emulate Nick Faldo and David Carter, England's only previous World Cup winners, who won in 1998 at Auckland, New Zealand, where Verplank won the individual title.
To hoist England's colors again, Casey, who was quoted in a
newspaper as saying he had felt "hate" toward the Americans
during the Ryder Cup, will have to keep sharp focus after the
furor that has left him worrying over the response when he
plays on next year's U.S. Tour.
The backlash spread to the course Friday.
South African Rory Sabbatini's American wife, Amy, sported a
T-shirt with the words "Stoopid Amerikan" on the front and "PC
is not PC" on the back.
Casey, who apologized Thursday, has tried to dampen down the controversy. "I'd rather not take any questions on that. Just play my golf," he said.
Verplank and Bob Tway are competing for the Americans. The
Oklahoma friends play almost every practice round together on the
PGA Tour. Their round turned at No. 9, where Verplank hit a 3-wood
to 15 feet and Tway sank the eagle putt.
"From that point on we started to hit a lot of solid shots,"
Donald said the Englishmen's success in scoring nine birdies
in 12 holes had been based on an alternate-shot strategy of his
teeing off on odd-numbered holes, meaning he played all the
par-3s and drove on three of the par-5s.
"It worked just fine because my iron play is very strong and
Paul putted very well," he said.
"There are a lot of well-recognized names on the trophy, and
it would be a great attribute to everyone's résumé."
Casey added: "It would be great to win for your country, and
it would be my only win of the year!"
Austria, which co-led with Ireland at 12-under 60 after the first round, also
bogeyed the last, but Brier, ranked 211th in the world, and
Wiegele, ranked 533rd, refused to go away, sandwiching four
birdies around the turn between bogeys at the third and last.
The Austrians will play with the English in the last group Saturday, when the
format returns to better ball.
Ireland looked set to be England's nearest challenger until Padraig Harrington, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8 in the world, hit into the lake on 16, giving him and partner Paul McGinley, the 1997 World Cup champions, a double bogey.
"The golf gods shined on us yesterday, but it wasn't the case
today," McGinley said.
Mexico, whose Alejandro Quiroz was penalized one stroke for
slow play after the first round, continues to prop up the tail end of the 24-team field. The team is 21 shots back at 2-over 146.
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.