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Danny Willett leads at redesigned Wentworth

Self-confessed hot head Danny Willett produced a sizzling display on his PGA Championship debut on Thursday, squeezing nine birdies in a six-under 65 to lead after the first round.

The 22-year-old Briton, a former Walker Cup team mate of world number nine Rory McIlroy, was one stroke ahead of Australian Richard Green.

Sharing third place on 67 in the European Tour’s flagship event were British trio Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay and Steve Webster and India’s SSP Chowrasia.

Willett made a fast start under cloudless skies at Wentworth, reeling off five birdies in seven holes on the way to an outward 31.

The young Englishman continued to make light of the new, toughened-up West Course with a dynamic birdie hat-trick from the 16th.

“The greens are a bit slow compared to past years and I holed quite a few putts,” Willett told reporters.

“They are rolling really well with the new grass down and if you get a good pace you can hole them well.”

Willett said he had been excitable since his days as a brilliant young amateur but was starting to improve his behavious thanks to coach Graham Walker and caddie Malcolm Mason.

“I am a bit hot-headed,” he said. “I’m fairly giddy all the time. Maybe not playing as good as I feel I should…gets me a bit hot under the collar.

“But working with Malcolm and Graham, we have come out of that quite a bit. It’s getting better.”

Willett enjoyed a good rookie campaign last year, registering eight top-10s.

He has maintained that form this season by finishing in a tie for fourth place at the Joburg Open, sixth in the Malaysian Open and joint seventh at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

“I’m always trying to win, every week I come out,” said Willett. “It’s been good mentally this year and even if I’m not hitting it perfect, I’m swinging it perfect.

“It would be good to win but it’s not a necessity this year. It will come soon if I just keep playing good golf.”

While the little-known Willett was feasting on the new-look West Course, some of the bigger names endured something of a famine.

World number six Ian Poulter slumped to a seven-over 78, ninth-ranked McIlroy carded a 74 and German Martin Kaymer had a 76.

“I didn’t hit it good,” a stony-faced Poulter told reporters. “I don’t know what you want me to say, how much more I can elaborate.

“You can see my scorecard, I didn’t play very well. If you don’t play well on this golf course it’s going to punish you.”

Ernie Els, who masterminded the changes, opened with a 69 while Padraig Harrington had an ugly eight at the 17th on the way to a level-par 71.

World number three Lee Westwood criticised the alterations after his 70.

“If you’re going to spend a lot of money on changes it would be nice to get them right first time round,” he said.

Westwood cited Augusta National, venue of the U.S. Masters, as an example of change for the better.

“They’ve softened Augusta over the past few years and the atmosphere has improved,” said the Englishman. “Today I pitched it eight feet right of the hole on 16 and it went 30 feet away.

“People say, `Well, that happens at Augusta,’ but this isn’t Augusta.”



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