Familiar territory enables Willett to make early running in Cologne

Danny Willett.
Danny Willett.
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Danny Willett says he felt very at ease with the golf course and his game as he moved into position yesterday to regain the BMW international Open in Cologne.

The 26-year-old from Sheffield claimed his one and only European Tour title at Gut Larchenhof two years ago and on his and the tournament’s return yesterday, he opened with a bogey-free round of 64.

That eight-under par tally was enough to give him a share of the lead with playing partner Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain. It also continued his fine form of late, which saw him finish third at the Irish Open last week.

A neck injury may yet thwart his chances of completing the job this week, with the Yorkshireman forced to miss the pro-am on Wednesday because he felt a tweak, but with a course of physiotherapy over the coming days he hopes not to do too much damage to his body, or his chances.

“I’m playing some good golf and working hard on the greens and that’s starting to pay off,” said Willett. “You can turn good rounds into great rounds very quickly if you start holing putts.

“I felt very at ease because I knew my around the course.”

Malton’s Simon Dyson shot a 69, while Hull’s Richard Finch is level par after a 72. Harrogate’s John Parry is two over.

Tiger Woods’ return to action after back surgery did not go to plan as the world No 5 could manage only a three-over-par 74 in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National at Bethesda, seven shots off leader Ricky Barnes.