PALM BEACH GARDENS — Luke Donald's opening round in the Honda Classic was far from perfect. He missed five greens and seven fairways, including five straight on the back nine.
And conditions at windy, cool PGA National were hardly optimal for scoring.
Yet somehow, Donald found a way to post the Honda's best score in three years.
A bogey-free 64 Thursday gave Donald a one-shot lead over Brian Davis and a two-shot edge on Matt Jones after the first round of the Honda — an event Donald won two years ago when it was at nearby Mirasol, a considerably easier track.
"I did a lot of good things around the greens and when I had my chances, I took them," Donald said. "I didn't drive it particularly well. I need to improve that. I probably hit only half the fairways, which is not quite good enough.
"Apart from that, everything was very good."
Donald posted the lowest round at Honda since Padraig Harrington shot a final-round 63 to win in 2005 at Mirasol, and the 64 was the best in 571 tournament rounds since the event moved to PGA National — where Mark Wilson's winning score a year ago was 5 under. Wilson shot 73 Thursday.
"Golf is just a tough game sometimes," Donald said. "It sometimes gets you down, and we've all been there before, but luckily right now I feel pretty confident about my game. I feel confident about where I'm heading, and I'm definitely going the right direction."
He wasn't alone in feeling that way.
Jones (66) was alone in third, two shots off the pace, with a slew of others — including Ernie Els, the world's No. 4 player — three shots back. Els was one of only 10 players to make birdie at the arduous, 508-yard, par-4 10th, which was his first hole of the day.
"This is really my first full event, so to speak, of the year over here, so I needed to get off to a good start," said Els, whose PGA Tour campaign for 2008 began with a first-round exit last week in Match Play. "I was a little nervy this morning to force myself to get off to a good start, and I've had that now, so I can start building on that."
Jose Coceres, who lost to Wilson in a four-man playoff last year, and Jesper Parnevik were in a group within four shots of Donald at 68.
"You've almost got to have a major mentality here," Parnevik said.
Tadd Fujikawa, 17, who hasn't made a cut since turning pro in the summer, shot 78.
LPGA: Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa got off to a fast start in her first round of the season, shooting bogey-free 6-under 66 at Tanah Merah to take a one-stroke lead in the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. "It was one of those days that I was getting the ball and making good contact especially, had a lot of birdie chances," said Ochoa, an eight-time winner last season. "It was a great start." Ochoa skipped the opening two events in Hawaii. "I am 100 percent ready to go," she said. "It's why I took a few more weeks to practice and why I am here." Paula Creamer, coming off a victory Sunday in the Fields Open in Hawaii, and Ai Miyazato opened with 67s in the inaugural 78-player event that features 18 of the top 20 players in the world. "I missed a lot of putts … but the ones that I holed were fairly big breakers," Creamer said. "There's not many straight putts that you have out there." Linda Wessberg was two strokes back at 68 along with Kim In-kyung and Lee Jee-young, while Karrie Webb shot 69 in her first start of the year. Annika Sorenstam opened with 71. Suzann Pettersen, a five-time winner last year, had 72. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome had two bogeys and double bogey on her way to 2-over 74.
European/Australasian: Caddie-turned-pro Shamim Khan and Daniel Vancsik each shot 5-under 67 to share the first-round lead at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Gurgaon, India. Adam Scott was one stroke back. Vijay Singh shot 70, in a 12-way tie for 24th. "I didn't putt particularly well and threw away a few shots. I did not face any problems, just caused them myself," he said. "The greens are very hard to putt on." Colin Montgomerie shot 74 and Ian Poulter had 76, including three double bogeys over four holes.