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Donald birdies to early lead

BRITAIN'S Luke Donald produced a spectacular burst of six consecutive birdies to surge into a commanding 3-shot lead in Thursday's opening round at the Memorial tournament in Dublin.

The double PGA Tour champion shrugged off a bogey at the par-4 first to fire an 8-under par 64 in the event hosted by Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Donald covered the back nine in a sizzling 6-under 30 to end a cool, overcast day well ahead of his nearest challengers. Australian Jason Day got to 7-under after 15 holes before bogeying 17 and 18 for a 67, finishing joint second with South African Thomas Aiken and Americans Jim Furyk and Ted Purdy.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods, bidding for a record fourth title at Muirfield Village, also bogeyed the par-4 last for a 5-birdie 69 to lie five strokes off the pace.

Donald, seeking his first PGA Tour victory since the 2006 Honda Classic, expected nothing special from his day until he holed a 15-foot putt from the fringe to birdie the par-three eighth.

"I guess all good rounds start with a bogey," the smiling 31-year-old told reporters. "It was kind of a normal every-day round until I got to the eighth and made a nice putt from the fringe there. That kind of sparked off a run of six birdies."

Donald also birdied the ninth to reach the turn in 2-under 34 before picking up further shots at the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th.

"I just got on a hot streak," he said after needing only 20 putts to post his lowest round on the PGA Tour this season.

"Eight under through nine holes. That doesn't happen very often ...," he said.

American Steve Stricker, winner of the Colonial Invitational on Sunday, and 3-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa opened with matching 70s. Among the other big names, former world No. 1 David Duval carded a 71 while fifth-ranked Australian Geoff Ogilvy and 1997 PGA Championship title holder Davis Love III returned 72s.


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