Luke Came Out Swinging in First Round (Shock!)
By Stephanie Wei under Fall Series

Luke: Thanks for messing up my vacation, Webb!

With the wind gusting and swirling at Disney (The Happiest Place on Earth!), six guys, who all played the Palm Course, aka the “easier one,” fired six-under 66 for a six-way tie for the lead in the first round of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Among them were Nos. 2 and 125 on the PGA Tour money list — Luke Donald and James Driscoll.

Donald, a last-minute entry after Webb Simpson entered last week’s McGladrey Classic to challenge the world No. 1 ranked player (and then No. 1 on the money list) for the money title (which comes along with a five-year exemption), came into the event knowing he basically had to win the tournament to regain the top position. Simpson, who entered The McGladrey with roughly $68,000 less than Luke, lost in a playoff to Ben Crane, but gained a nice consolation prize — a $363,029 advantage over Luke going into the final event of the year.

To be specific, here’s what Luke needs to do to dethrone Webb, via PGATour.com (and the Orlando Sentinel‘s Jeff Shain, who is like a walking encyclopedia or human Google):

*If Donald wins: Should Donald win at Disney, he will claim the first-place check of $846,000. If that happens, Simpson would need to finish solo second (worth $507,600) to stay atop the money list.

*If Donald finishes solo second: Should Donald win the $507,600 that goes with a solo second, Simpson would need to finish solo eighth or better to stay atop the money list. Solo eighth is worth $145,700.

*If Donald finishes tied for second: A two-way tie for second is worth the $413,600. If Donald accomplishes that, Simpson would need to finish in at least a four-way tie for 21st (worth $50,760) to stay atop the the money list (*and outside 22nd). A three-way tie for second (worth $350,933.33) will not be good enough for Donald.

“(Webb) asked when I was having my off‑season,” said Luke after his round. “I said, ‘Well, it was going to be this week. Thanks for playing the last two weeks.’ But, yeah, just some lighthearted banter out there.

“That’s fine.  Not only do I have to beat Webb, I have to beat the rest of the field.  I have to keep my eye on everyone.”

Right, but I don’t think Luke was completely joking and he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Webb! (I was even irked on his behalf, but I can’t fault Webb for playing the last two weeks and wanting the money title.) In fact, Luke, a Northwestern alum, is missing his ten-year reunion and the homecoming game against Penn State. He was named honorary captain, but “hopefully won’t be missed too much.” Asked what those duties would have entailed, Luke quipped, “Motivational speech, you know, that kind of stuff.  Work out with ’em every day.”

Donald is looking to become the first player to officially win the PGA Tour and European Tour money title (Tiger Woods could have unofficially claimed the feat on six occasions, but he wasn’t a European Tour member and didn’t play in enough events to have been a member). He’s off to a good start.

The Player of the Year title is also on the line, depending on who comes out on top this week. Arguably, Simpson and Donald are the favorites.

As I mentioned, James “bubble boy” Driscoll also shot 66, along with Arjun Atwal, Nathan Green, Gary Woodland and Scott Stallings. The wind has picked up significantly (while the pace of play has slowed down just as much), so I doubt anyone in the afternoon wave will come in with another 66 or lower.

(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)