Preacher's son Willett in tour debut heaven

Lee Westwood has high hopes of going into the Masters with another win under his belt after starting his defence of the Andalucian Open with a seven-under-par 65 at Aloha yesterday. But two of Europe's youngsters – one of them the world's No 1 amateur playing his first Tour event – are chasing Westwood hard.

Sheffield's Danny Willett, the 20-year-old son of a clergyman, came in with a 66 after two eagles in the first seven holes of his debut, while 18-year-old Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, only six months into his professional career, showed his rich promise again with a 68 when the wind was much stronger after lunch.

Westwood did not register a bogey after deciding to fly back from America to defend the title and then return across the Atlantic for the Masters in two weeks' time. He began and finished with successful 18-foot putts and had five more birdies in between.

Course management was the key to his success, just as it will be at Augusta next month, and Westwood, looking to stretch his lead in the Ryder Cup points race, said: "I've always been pretty good at that. It's common sense really – but nobody ever said that everybody on the European Tour had common sense.

"I've got one eye on the Masters, but I didn't fancy another two-week stint in the States and nothing beats winning for confidence."

Westwood was back playing with his Ryder Cup partner Darren Clarke, but the Ulsterman mixed an eagle and three birdies with four bogeys and a double bogey. That added up to a one-over 73, and Clarke revealed afterwards that he was suffering from blisters on both feet caused by a new pair of shoes.

"Don't call me stupid because I know I'm stupid," he said. "I played like a part-time professional and part-time 10-handicapper."

Willett, joint second with Norwegian Jan-Are Larsen after the first round, has a plus-five handicap, is the reigning English champion, was a Walker Cup team-mate of McIlroy last September and his recent win in the Spanish Amateur took him top of the amateur world rankings.

An invitation to play this week's event quickly followed and he said: "I was quite nervous, but starting with a 25-foot eagle putt took a lot of the nerves out of the way. I proved to myself I can play a professional golf course and play well."

Almost a year ago in Portugal, the Spaniard Pablo Martin became the first amateur ever to win on the European Tour, so does Willett think he can emulate him? "I was joking about it before coming here. You never know – it's always in the back of your mind, but you can't think about it on the course," he said.

Willett has his fireman brother Matthew as his caddie and when asked if his father, a vicar at Christ Church in Hackenthorpe, South Yorkshire, ever carried his bag he replied: "He used to, but he stopped after telling me to hit through some trees. I took about 10."

His second eagle came on the 526-yard 16th courtesy of a four-iron to three feet, and he was alongside Westwood on seven-under par before pushing his final tee shot behind a tree to record a bogey.

McIlroy, whom Willett beat in the second round of the British Amateur last June, was happy to rediscover his form again after three successive missed cuts in Dubai, Malaysia and South Korea.

Olazabal shows promise after seven months out

It was a good day at the Andalucian Open for Jose Maria Olazabal on his return from seven months out battling rheumatic pains.

Concerned about his future at the end of last year, the double Masters champion returned a one-under 71 which he said was "better than I expected". The Spaniard has suffered rheumatism in his knee, shoulder and lower back, and when he had to postpone his planned January comeback, the prospect of an enforced retirement was looming.

However, a programme of anti-inflammatory treatment enabled him to request an invitation for this week's tournament.

He has ruled out attempting to qualify for the Ryder Cup as a player, and will be at Valhalla solely as Nick Faldo's vice-captain. "Faldo has nothing to worry about," he said recently. "From the neck up I'm still bright enough."

But he still has sights on next month's Masters, and a decent showing in Spain this weekend will be just the tonic he needs.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own