Bogey-free round for homecoming Masters champion Willett

VIRGINIA WATER (England) • Danny Willett was bursting with pride after marking his first appearance on home soil since his surprise US Masters victory with a six-under 66 in the European PGA Championship first round on Thursday.

The 28-year-old English golfer made hay in the Wentworth sunshine, reeling off six birdies to move within one shot of early leaders Scott Hend of Australia, South Korean Yang Yong Eun and Dutchman Joost Luiten.

"I had a great reception all the way round," Willett said.

"It's nice, they don't have to be here and they don't have to come out supporting, but they do. You've got to appreciate that and enjoy it and hopefully, touch wood, give them some good golf to watch."

Willett won his first Major when he landed the coveted Green Jacket last month in only his second appearance at Augusta National.

He had a frustrating time at last week's Irish Open, finishing in a share of 23rd place in his first event in Europe since winning the opening Major of the season.

On Thursday, however, he was inspired by the large galleries at Wentworth.

"Last week in Ireland was fantastic but there was a little bit more support out there today being a home boy in England," the five-time European Tour winner said.

"It's always nice when you come off bogey-free, it means you've played some real good golf and you've not given any stupid shots away.

"I played the par-fives particularly average in fairness after relatively good drives on most of them. It could have been a really good day."

The world No. 9's birdie at the 17th was his only one at the four par-five holes.

At the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Bryce Molder wielded a red-hot putter on near-perfect greens, finishing with a four-birdie flurry to take a one-shot lead in Thursday's opening round .

The 37-year-old American sank an 11-footer at the sixth, a 20-footer at the seventh, an 11-footer at the eighth and an 18-footer at the par-four ninth, his final hole, to shoot a flawless six-under 64 at the Colonial Country Club.

India's Anirban Lahiri and Americans Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson opened with 65s, while the ominous figure of world No. 2 and local favourite Jordan Spieth lurked just three strokes off the pace.

Spieth made a nice birdie-birdie start to excite the huge galleries watching his every move.

Although he bogeyed the par-three fourth after finding a bunker off the tee, he picked up two more shots over his closing holes to end the opening round in touch with the lead. REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Bogey-free round for homecoming Masters champion Willett'. Print Edition | Subscribe