Old foes give Donald's debut air of familiarity

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The Independent Online

Sergio Garcia heads the strong field awaiting Luke Donald as the 24-year-old from Beaconsfield makes his full debut on the US Tour today in the Sony Hawaiian Open at Waialae, near Honolulu. While Tiger Woods has moved on to the New Zealand Open, Garcia, who turned 22 yesterday, has stayed on to attempt an Hawaiian double after his victory in the Mercedes Championships on Sunday.

With only last year's US tour champions eligible to play there, this week represents the first full-field event of the season in the States. David Toms, the player Garcia defeated in a play-off at Kapalua, is also in the field along with Brad Faxon, the defending champion, Davis Love, Tom Lehman, Fred Couples and the Swedes Jesper Parnevik and Per-Ulrik Johansson.

Donald, a graduate of NorthWestern University in Chicago, played a handful of events in the States last season after turning professional in August but became a full member of the US Tour at the Qualifying School in December. He was the only college player to earn his card but will face two old adversaries from the college circuit who had turned pro earlier in Charles Howell and David Gossett.

The trio have been rated by an American golf magazine as three of the newcomers most likely to succeed, along with another Englishman, Paul Casey, last season's leading rookie in Europe, and Adam Scott, the Europe-based Australian.

Donald decided against an apprenticeship in Europe following his many successes on the strong US college circuit. He will need well in excess of $400,000 to retain his card but is hopeful of a win at some point in his rookie season. "Seeing people like Howell and Gossett who I played against in college do well as professionals makes me believe that I can be successful too," he said.

In the first two rounds Donald has been paired with South Africa's Brenden Pappas and a local player, Kevin Hayashi. The venue could not be more spectacular. Waialae, which hosted the first Hawaiian Open in 1928, overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one side with the Koolau mountains on the other.

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