Donald leads in Disneyland
Disneyland - World number one Luke Donald seized an early advantage in his title duel with Webb Simpson by charging into a seven-way tie for the lead in Thursday's opening round of the Disney Classic at Lake Buena Vista in Florida.
Briton Donald coped well with breezy conditions as he fired a flawless six-under-par 66 on the Palm course, one of two layouts hosting the final PGA Tour event of the season.
That lifted him to the top of the leaderboard, alongside Americans James Driscoll, Gary Woodland, Scott Stallings and Derek Lamely, India's Arjun Atwal and Australian Nathan Green.
Steven Bowditch of Australia carded a seven-birdie 68 on the more difficult Magnolia layout to lie one stroke off the pace with six other players.
American Simpson, who is vying with Donald for the PGA Tour's money list title and possibly also player of the year honours, opened with a bogey-free 68 on the Palm course.
With their head-to-head battle the biggest storyline of the week, the two have been paired together by organisers for the first two rounds and they each relished the opening day.
"We get along fine and we had a little light-hearted banter going on Thursday," a smiling Donald told reporters after recording four birdies on his outward nine and two more after the turn.
"He asked when I was having my off-season and I said, 'Well, it was going to be this week. Thanks for playing the last two weeks'."
Simpson, who leads Donald by $363 029 in the PGA Tour money list going into the season finale, agreed.
"It was fun," said the 26-year-old, who has won twice on the US circuit in his last six starts.
"We fed off each other a little bit and we had a good time."
Donald, who only committed to this week's event when he knew his bid for the money title was under threat, was wary of focusing too much on Simpson at the Disney.
"My focus this week is trying to win the tournament," the 33-year-old Englishman said.
"Obviously I have to beat Webb to do that but I've got to beat the rest of the field as well. I have to keep my eye on everyone."
While Simpson trails Donald by two shots going into Friday's second round, he was happy with his Disney start.
"It was tough this morning," he said.
"It was cold when we teed off and then the wind picked up pretty early.
"I just thought if I could eliminate my mistakes and shoot anything under par, that would be pretty good on day one. And I did."
Among the other big names competing this week, double US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa opened with a 68 while British world number 17 Justin Rose battled to a 75.
American Robert Garrigus, who won last year's Disney Classic by a commanding eight shots, launched his title defence with a 70.
This week is also a nerve-jangling one for players bidding to secure their full playing privileges for next year by finishing in the top 125 on the season-ending money list.
Driscoll, 125th coming into this week, gave himself the perfect start with his opening 66 on the Palm layout.
"I don't look at 125 as that special of a number," he said.
"The guys at 120 through 190 are kind of all in the same position.
"Every one of those guys needs a good week this week to avoid Q-School (qualifying school)."
Leading first-round scores here on Thursday in the $4.7 million US
PGA Tour event at Walt Disney World Resort (USA unless noted, par-72):
66 - James Driscoll, Arjun Atwal (IND), Nathan Green (AUS), Luke Donald (GBR), Gary Woodland, Scott Stallings, Derek Lamely
67 - Scott Gutschewski, Steven Bowditch (AUS), William McGirt, Kris Blanks, Paul Stankowski, Bi-o Kim (KOR), Ben Martin
68 - Nick O'Hern (AUS), Webb Simpson, Henrik Stenson (SWE), Retief Goosen (RSA), Jarrod Lyle (AUS), Sunghoon Kang (KOR)
69 - Alexandre Rocha (BRA)
70 - Greg Chalmers (AUS), Charlie Wi (KOR), John Senden (AUS),
71 - Aron Price (AUS), Ryuji Imada (JPN), David Hearn (CAN)
72 - Michael Sim (AUS), Trevor Immelman (RSA), Chris Baryla (CAN)
73 - Matt McQuillan (CAN), Fabian Gomez (ARG), Stephen Ames (CAN), Steve Elkington (AUS)
74 - Brian Davis (GBR)
75 - Matt Jones (AUS), Justin Rose (GBR)
76 - Richard S. Johnson (SWE), Rod Pampling (AUS)