Sunday 18 February 2018

Donald on the money after opening showdown with 'Merit' rival Simpson

Luke Donald. Photo: Getty Images
Luke Donald. Photo: Getty Images

Christopher Butler

LUKE DONALD drew first blood yesterday in his 'high noon' showdown with Webb Simpson.

England's World No 1 needs to win or, at worst, finish tied-second in the final event of the PGA Tour season to overtake Simpson and finish on top of the US Money List.

History beckons to Donald, runaway leader in the European Tour's Race to Dubai, as he bids to become the first player to win the 'Order of Merit' on both sides of the Atlantic in the same year.

It's a big ask for Donald (33) to overcome the $363,029 lead held by Simpson, but he showed no hint of it yesterday as a faultless first-round 66 eased him two shots ahead of Simpson and into a share of the early clubhouse lead at the Children's Charity Network Classic.

In fairness, Simpson also emerged bogey-free from his eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Donald on The Palm, the easier of the two Disney World resort courses in play this week.

The American's added length is expected to give him a slight advantage when they play Magnolia today and for all 36 holes at the weekend. Yet Donald is the most clinical and consistent finisher at present, which is a great equaliser.

"I think you'd want to capitalise on the slightly easier course and six birdies and no bogeys was a great start. It wasn't that easy out there," said Donald.

Simpson enjoyed going eyeball-to-eyeball with Donald, revealing they'd engaged in a little banter. "We joked about it. He shook my hand and said it was great to see me and we went a little back and forth starting out, but it's all been good."

Children's Miracle Network Classic, Live, Sky Sports 3, 7.0

Irish Independent

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