European Tour star Jamie Donaldson will make his second consecutive PGA TOUR start this week. (Franklin/Getty Images)
By Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
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After early exits in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship last week, European Tour members Alexander Noren and Jamie Donaldson played their way into this week'sThe Honda Classic by qualifying Monday along with two-time PGA TOUR winner Vaughn Taylor and former TOUR member Darron Stiles.
All four golfers fired rounds of 5-under 66 at the Mayacoo Lakes Country Club to earn the Thursday start.
Noren, the 30-year-old Swede who played golf at Oklahoma State University, defeated Dustin Johnson 6 and 4 on Day 1 last week at Dove Mountain before falling in 20 holes to Graeme McDowell.
The Welsh-born Donaldson, who fell in the opening round to Thorbjorn Oleson 3 and 2, started the year strong by holding off Justin Rose last month to win the Abu Dhabi Championship -- the second career win on the European Tour for the 37-year-old.
Veteran PGA TOUR member Taylor, who turns 37 on March 9, qualified into The Honda Classic for the second year in a row -- finishing 18th a year ago in his seventh appearance in the event. The Augusta, Ga. resident won both PGA TOUR titles in back-to-back years at the Reno-Tahoe Open (2004, 2005). He tied for ninth last week at the Web.com Tour's Panama Claro Championship
Stiles, a five-time winner on the Web.com Tour, graduated to the PGA TOUR for the fourth time in his career when he finished 17th on the Web.com Tour money list in 2012. The 39-year-old who now resides in Pinehurst, N.C. made his only cut of the early 2013 season last month at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, where he tied for 56th.
MARANA, Ariz. -- This match was extremely well-played and it seemed somewhat fitting that neither Graeme McDowell nor Alexander Noren held more than a 1-up advantage.
The two exhanged wins with birdies on the first three holes before McDowell squared the match with a par at No. 4. The Northern Irishman won the sixth hole when he drained a 24-footer for birdie to go 1 up and held that lead until he made double bogey at the par-5 13th -- finding the greenside bunker, the desert, where he had to take a drop, and another bunker on the way to that 7.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion was able to shake off that frustration, though, when he birdied No. 14 but Noren answered with one of his own to square the match on the next hole. The Swede then rolled in a 7-footer for birdie to take just his second lead of the day at No. 17 but McDowell sent the match to extra holes with his clutch 4-footer at the 18th.
Noren got up and down from beside the green on the first extra hole to halve with McDowell who two-putted for par from 33 feet.
The Northern Irishman then polished Noren off with a 7-foot birdie putt on the 20th hole after the Swede couldn't capitalize despite getting a free drop in the desert when a TV tower was in his line of sight.
"I hit it inside him most of the day, but he was really hot with the putter, made everything he looked at pretty much and hit a lot of great shots," McDowell said. "It was a tough game. I had to play decent just to hang onto him."
SCORECARD STATS: McDowell made seven birdies and one double bogey in 20 holes. Noren made six birdies and three bogeys.
HOLES WON: McDowell won six holes. Noren won five holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Shane Lowry, who beat Carl Pettersson 6 and 5.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Sweden's Alexander Noren, a 13th seed, beat fourth-seeded Dustin Johnson of the U.S., 6 and 4, in the first round.
Noren, making just his second start in this event, will now play Graeme McDowell in the second round of the Jones bracket.
After a bogey on the first hole, Noren played as well as anybody on the course Thursday. He was bogey-free for the rest of the round and posted seven birdies on his card. He was 3 up through six holes, 4 up through eight, and played even better on the back nine.
He reeled off four consecutive birdies starting at the 10th hole, making bbirdie putts of 6-1/2 feet, 9 feet, 2-1/2 feet and 4 feet.
"I played great," Noren said. "I was really happy with my game and hit a lot of greens ... It was a lot of fun."