Danny Willett hoping home support can help him win the BMW PGA Championship

Danny Willett made a strong start at the BMW PGA Championship
Phil Casey

MASTERS champion Danny Willett wants to experience the same support which roared Rory McIlroy to a home victory last week after making a flawless start to the BMW PGA Championship.

In his first round in England since winning his maiden major title at Augusta, Willett carded six birdies and no bogeys in an opening 66 at Wentworth to finish a shot behind YE Yang, Joost Luiten and Scott Hend.

The 28-year-old from Sheffield experienced at first hand the backing McIlroy received in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, playing alongside the four-time major winner in the final round.

And although he slipped to a tie for 23rd after a closing 77, Willett would like the English crowds to replicate the atmosphere which helped McIlroy claim his first win of the year at The K Club.

"The reception on the first tee was amazing," said Willett, whose best finish at Wentworth saw him fifth on his debut in 2010, when he led after an opening 65.

"Last week in Ireland was fantastic, but I had a little bit more support out there being a home boy in England. We got a great reception all the way around.

"It's always nice to come back and play in front of the home crowds. It helped Rory last week coming down the stretch and hopefully it can do the same for one of the English lads this week. You always get great crowds at Wentworth and if the good weather will hopefully stay around, we should be in for a great week.

"I've worked really hard the last three weeks. I was a bit lax going into the Players Championship and last week we were grinding for three days and had glimpses of good golf in there.

"I've been on the range again this week. Just because you win a big tournament doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels, I'd rather work to win the next one."

Hend, who won his second European Tour title in Thailand in March, carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey on the 15th as a more conservative approach paid off for the big-hitting 43-year-old.

"I tried aggressive last year and it really doesn't work," said the world number 85, who missed the cut on his debut last year.

"So I thought I'd just be a little bit cautious (off the tee) and a bit more aggressive into the greens. We'll see how that plays out during the week.

"There's a long three more days to go but I'm comfortable wherever I'm playing, whether I'm running last or whether I'm running first. Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going."

Yang, who made history in the 2009 US PGA as the first player to come from behind to beat Tiger Woods in the final round of a major, also carded eight birdies and one bogey, while Luiten bogeyed the first and 16th but fired nine birdies to bounce back in style from rounds of 75 and 80 in Ireland.

Australia's Richard Green, England's Robert Rock and South Africa's Jaco van Zyl were two shots off the pace, with former world number one Luke Donald delighted with an opening 68.

Donald, who first reached top spot in the rankings by beating Lee Westwood in a play-off here in 2011 and successfully defended the title 12 months later, began the week ranked 76th in the world and said: "I love getting off to a good start on Thursdays, that seems to be the key for me. That was a perfect start for me this week.

"The last year or two has been tough, I've struggled to gain confidence and feel comfortable but the last couple of months I'm feeling more and more comfortable and it's nice to see some better results. I feel like I am on the upward path."

Defending champion Byeong Hun An had held the early lead when he carded four birdies in succession from the fourth, only to bogey the ninth and cover the back nine in 40 to card a level-par 72.

Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell opened with three under par rounds of 69 with Michael Hoey a shot further back after an opening 70.


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: