The former world number one got off to a hot start when he followed a birdie at the first with an eagle at the par-five second. He stretched out a two-shot lead over Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Bjorn before thunderstorms forced an initial delay at 12:12 that lasted until 3pm.
“Lovely start,” said Donald. “It doesn’t get much better than three-three around here. Birdie-eagle and all of a sudden you are three under par through two holes. I played solid for those first 11 holes and hit a couple of very nice shots in that time that I was able to take advantage of. I feel good over the ball right now and I am playing with confidence.”
Unfazed by the delay, Donald picked up where he left off with a par at the seventh and then birdied the eighth and ninth for a 31-stroke outward nine.
“I also have to say that the putting came back in Dubai and Japan. That had been a little off for most of the year so it was very encouraging to get that back and I am feeling good about my game right now,” he said.
Pars at 10 and 11 left the seven-time European Tour winner high and dry when further storms forced a suspension in play at 4.18pm. The round will resume at 7.30 on Friday morning, while the second round is due to start as scheduled at 10.10am.
“We usually get some smaller delays here but today was a bit more than usual. But we’ll just come back and do it again tomorrow,” Donald said.
Darren Fichardt led the local charge with a one-under total after 11 holes, while Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge holed out at the ninth from 101 metres with a 54 degree wedge for a move to three-under.