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Golf: Donald looks to defend Tampa title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Luke Donald, whose victory last year propelled him to top spot in the world rankings, returns to the Copperhead course this week to defend his title at the PGA Tour's Tampa Bay Championship.

Donald is part of a group that includes two other former winners, Jim Furyk (2010) and South Korea's KJ Choi (2002, 2006).

"I am excited to be back here. Obviously some good memories from last year," England's Donald said.

Donald beat third round co-leader Furyk, South Korea's Bae Sang-moon and Robert Garrigus in a four-man playoff last year.

Donald closed with a five-under 66 to join Bae (68), Garrigus (64) and American Jim Furyk (69) at 13-under 271.

In the playoff, the foursome returned to the 18th, where they all hit the green with their approach shots with Donald being the closest.

Donald then converted a six-foot birdie putt for the win after the other three all missed on their first putts.

"I chipped and putted very well. I scrambled very well," Donald said Wednesday. "It is a golf course you really have to think your way around. It really does test all parts of your game."

Donald is one of seven players ranked in the world top 20 in the field this week. He is also one of eight former champions participating, including South Africa's Retief Goosen, who won in 2003 and four years ago.

Donald, who finished 43rd at last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship, said his game is beginning to come around.

"I am not approaching these events with too much worry or anticipation because I feel like I am very close," he said.

South Africa's Ernie Els is also back at the Copperhead course.

Els looked to be heading towards a victory last year after leading by one at the 16th hole.

But Els, of Johannesburg, missed a short birdie putt on 16 then made bogey on the final two holes to miss the playoff.

One of the more interesting trios will be a star-studded all Aussie group including Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Jason Day. All three had strong starts, especially Scott, who tied for third last week at the WGC event.

Adelaide's Ogilvy was second at the Honda Classic and Day edged Ian Poulter for third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Matt Kuchar heads up another interesting trio that is playing well. Kuchar, Scott Brown and Michael Thompson have all posted wins in the last three weeks.

Brown won the Puerto Rico Open and Thompson captured the Honda Classic, while Kuchar claimed the WGC-Accenture title. Brown and Thompson were both first-time winners.

The PGA Tour shifts to Orlando, Florida next week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Tiger Woods cruised to a five-stroke victory last year.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130313/golf-donald-looks-defend-tampa-title