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Golf: Willett makes a flying start.

Byline: Mark Garrod in Marbella

YORKSHIRE'S Danny Willett, the new world number one in amateur golf, began his first European Tour event with two eagles in his first seven holes today.

The 20-year-old English champion and Walker Cup cap, given a sponsor's invitation to the Andalucian Open at Aloha near Marbella, made threes on the 561-yard 10th and 526-yard 16th.

At four under par, the clergyman's son - winner of the Spanish Amateur earlier this month and trying to become only the second amateur ever to grab a Tour title - was just one behind early leader Jan- Are Larsen.

The Norwegian player had birdies at the fourth and sixth in turning in 34, then had three more in a row at the start of the back nine.

Defending champion Lee Westwood opened with an 18-foot birdie putt at the 10th and then pitched to within two feet of the flag on the 399-yard 15th to be in the group on two under.

Playing partner Darren Clarke - also his partner, of course, in an emotion-charged Ryder Cup two years ago played within weeks of his wife Heather dying of breast cancer - started for home two over.

Clarke did match Willett's eagle at the 16th, holing from eight feet.

But he had already bogeyed the short 13th, dropped two more strokes at the 230-yard 17th and bogeyed once more on the next after what looked dangerously like a shank with his approach.

Swede Peter Hanson and Welshman Bradley Dredge each need to win on Sunday to have a chance of climbing into the world's top 50 and thereby earn a place in The Masters in two weeks.

Dredge was among the later starters - as was Jose Maria Olazabal after seven months out battling rheumatic pains - while Hanson was level par after nine holes.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2008
Words:300
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