Thursday, May 06, 2010


Luke Donald in the picture at Sawgrass

Luke Donald was all smiles and Greg Owen all seething fury on the opening day of golf's richest event, the £6.2million Players Championship, in Florida today.
Donald, runner-up five years ago, tucked in just behind early pacesetter JB Holmes with a five-under-par 67 on a Sawgrass course which Nick Faldo said was set up perfectly for him.
Before attention turned to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, however, Owen became yet another victim of one of the most famous holes in the sport. A quadruple-bogey 7 on the tiny, 137yd 17th left the Mansfield player ready to explode after he handed in a one-over 73.
"I'm not saying a word about the 17th - I'm fuming at the moment," said Owen when asked by a US Tour official to speak to reporters. "Forget the 17th please. This is The Players Championship. I've not had a great year. I was playing nicely and I go and do that."
Owen's nine-iron tee shot to the near-island green failed to carry the water and then from the drop zone his next attempt was nowhere near making it over.
Owen has still to win in America and it was a par-e 17th that did for him when a golden opportunity presented itself at the Bay Hill Invitational four years ago. On that occasion a double-bogey 5 resulted in him losing the title to Australian Rod Pampling.
Donald, meanwhile, had four birdies in five holes around the turn and after bogeying the 15th hit a superb approach to six feet on the dangerous last and made the birdie putt.
As a result he was leading the early European challenge for a title won by Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia the last two years.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson three-putted it for bogey in a two under 70. The left-hander, who has a chance to go to world number one for the first time in his life on Sunday.
For that to happen he has to win and Woods has to be outside the top five, which after a 79 and missed cut by a shocking eight shots last Friday made for fascinating viewing as he set off in the afternoon.
A three-wood off the first tee flew left into the trees, but Woods managed to find the green from there and parred the next four holes as well.


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