Danny Willett digs deep as he gets back inside the ropes

Danny Willett  hits from the 18th fairway during the first round of The Players Championship (Picture: Chris O'Meara/AP).
Danny Willett hits from the 18th fairway during the first round of The Players Championship (Picture: Chris O'Meara/AP).
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Masters champion Danny Willett shot a two-under-par 70 at the Players Championship in Sawgrass in his first tournament action since Augusta.

“I have not had a load of time to do a great deal of work so the game was not great, but I dug deep and hit some reasonably good shots,” said Sheffield’s Willett.

“It’s been a bit crazy, it’s been a whirlwind. It was nice (Thursday morning) when we were announced as Masters champion, and it was nice to get back on the golf course and inside the ropes because all you have to do is concentrate on the golf.”

Willett’s fellow Sheffielder Matt Fitzpatrick is on three under after a 69.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry was level par halfway through his opening round of the so-called “fifth major” before storming home in a tournament-record 29 shots to card a seven-under-par 65.

The 29-year-old, who has just one top-10 finish this season, holed from 35 feet for birdie on the 10th and chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 11th before picking up further shots from inside six feet on the 12th and 13th.

Lowry also birdied the par-5 16th and, after missing from 10 feet on the famous par-3 17th, made his final gain of the day from 12 feet on the 18th to finish two shots behind world No 1 Jason Day, who equalled the course record with a flawless 63.

Woodsome Hall GC’s Chris Hanson shot a level-par 72 in the first round of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open while Leeds’s Daniel Gavins was two shots further back.

Huddersfield GC’s Nick Marsh carded an 80, but showed his mettle by recovering from an outward 45 – that included two triple bogeys in the first three holes – with an inward one-under-par 35.