Donald means business

Luke Donald showed his rivals he means business in the FedEx Cup by whisking up his best opening round of the year on Friday.

World No 1 Luke Donald showed his rivals he means business in the FedEx Cup by whisking up his best opening round of the year in Boston on Friday.

Playing in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, the US-based Englishman shot a 5-under par 66 to finish just one shot off the lead secured by American Troy Matteson.

He is tied for second with South African No 1 Charl Schwartzel, the reigning Masters champion, Korean YE Yang, the 2009 PGA Champion, and the in-form US veteran Jerry Kelly.

Entering this week’s event, the second of the PGA Tour’s four lucrative playoff events, Donald occupies fifth spot in the overall standings and trails FedExCup leader Dustin Johnson by 1,583 points.

The long-hitting Johnson also made a good start on Friday and was just three shots off the pace in a large group that included recently crowned PGA Championship Keegan Bradley, after carding a three-under 68.

In the meantime, Donald, who lost only one shot in a round that included six birdies, seemed to be hugely encouraged by his performance.

He told Sky Sports 3: “Sometimes I’ve not played that great in the first round and I’ve been having to play catch-up so it’s nice to post five under. I’m in a great position.

“The last month or so I haven’t short-gamed it well enough – I haven’t made those putts when I needed to. Today I did. That was really the difference between five under and maybe two under and being back in the pack.

“It’s nice to see the putter warming up a little bit.

“There’s a little bit more urgency to do well and win because it is the play-offs and with the points being so much more there’s a lot of value in winning.

“Winning goes a long way – it’ll set you up great for the Tour Championship and that’s always the goal inn this championship.”

Matteson started on the 10th and made a shaky start with a bogey five, but that was to be his only dropped shot of the round, his seven birdies that followed, spearheading his charge into the first round lead of an event that will traditionally end on Labour Day Monday.

He began this week in a precarious 97th place in the FedExCup standings knowing well that he desperately needed to perform at his best in Boston this week for only the leading 70 players after the Deutsche Bank Championship move on to the BMW Championship at Cog Hill before the top 30 eventually qualify for the Tour Championship finale at East Lake.

“Obviously where I’m at,” he said, “if I don’t play well (here), I’m not going to play next week.”

Schwartzel and Yang picked up six birdies apiece, their only blemishes each coming at the par-four fifth, while the highlight of Kelly’s round came with an eagle on the par-five 18th, the American having started on the back nine.

Australia’s Jason Day, who had two seconds in the Majors this year, was notably lurking amid a cluster of players two shots off the pace after signing for a 67.

Four-time major winner Phil Mickelson posted a solid 70 after using his new belly putter in tournament play for the first time. Notably his round had no three putt greens and left him smiling.

“I got off to a great start with it and I thought it went well,” the world’s No 1 left-hander said after totaling 29 putts in the opening round.

“I feel that I’m probably putting better with that putter than I would be with the short putter, so I’ll end up using it for the rest of the tournament I would anticipate.”

Northern Ireland’s 2011 US Open champion Graeme McDowell had an up and down day, his three bogeys and three birdies leaving him trailing by all of six shots at level par.

(USA unless stated, par 71):
65 Troy Matteson
66 Jerry Kelly, Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Luke Donald (Eng), YE Yang (Kor)
67 Nick Watney, Rory Sabbatini (Rsa), Steve Marino, George McNeill, Jonathan Byrd, Jason Day (Aus), Chez Reavie