Luke Donald leads the field in battle for Par-3 title

LUKE Donald was in danger of capturing what many deem an unwanted title at Augusta yesterday.

No winner of the eve-of-tournament par-3 competition has gone on to win the first major of the season, and Donald was the early leader after a five-under-par 22 on the nine-hole course.

Just one shot behind him was the veteran Raymond Floyd who won the main event in 1976 - a year and a half before Donald was born.

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The 68-year-old American's impressive showing rekindles memories of his success in the tournament proper by an impressive eight strokes 35 years ago. Also on four-under was Edoardo Molinari.

Among the group finishing a further shot back was American youngster Rickie Fowler, who will be hoping his performance in this event will stand him in good stead as he prepares to tackle Augusta for the first time as a professional.

Twice par-3 winner Padraig Harrington was not going to make it a hat-trick. He had a two-under 25, the same as Phil Mickelson. Both, however, have a bigger prize in mind.

The par-3 course was designed in 1958 by architect George Cobb and Augusta chairman Clifford Roberts. The contest field includes tournament participants, non-competing past champions and honorary invitees. The nine-hole, par-27 course measures 1,060 yards and plays over DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond.

The record score for the fun event, set by Art Wall in 1965 and matched by Gay Brewer eight years later, is 20 strokes - seven-under-par.