European Tour

Warren's cheap aid pays British Masters dividend

Marc Warren (Gallo Images)
Marc Warren (Gallo Images)

Watford - Scotland's Marc Warren moved into a share of the lead on Thursday's opening day of the British Masters thanks to a simple $40 training aid.

Warren, who eagled the par five second hole on The Grove course north of London, produced a five-under-par 66 before being joined by Finland's Mikko Ilonen, England's Tommy Fleetwood and South African Richard Sterne atop the leaderboard in overcast, cold and windy conditions.

The 35-year old Warren had used his wife's credit card to go on-line and purchase a 'Golf Striker' swing aid.

This comprises a rubber ball attached to a lanyard that he hangs around his neck while holding the hanging ball in place with his two outstretched arms.

"Basically my arms were not in sync with my body and I was just practising on the range at home with this little ball that goes between your arms so much so that I feel now I am using my body more than my arms," Warren said.

"My arms just were not matching what my body was doing so I bought a couple and I've been practising with one at night and keeping one in my golf bag and warming up with it in the morning.

"My swing is now more in sync and it's given me the freedom to go play the golf course quietly easy."

Warren's fifth place last week in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, the 'Home of Golf', in Scotland was only his second top-10 finish in 26 events this year.

"The last couple of months have been clearly difficult so I was delighted to do what I did last week and carry on that good form this week," said Warren.

Ilonen also eagled the second hole as the five-time Tour winner looked to end a two-year victory drought while Sterne, who was joint runner-up last week in Scotland, was out to secure what would be a sixth Tour success, but a first in over three years.

Meanwhile, England's Lee Westwood produced a welcome return to form to be among seven players trailing just one shot off the lead, with the winner of the event nine years ago birdieing three holes in succession early in his round for a four-under-par 67.

After the disappointment of last fortnight's Ryder Cup, where Europe lost away to the United States, Westwood has returned to regular competition seeking a first European Tour victory in well over two years, and also a first since capturing last year's Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.

"I played really well today and with Billy (Foster, his caddy) saying it's the best he's seen me play in quite some time," said Westwood.

"The driving's not been great but I drove it really well today, didn't miss a fairway and hit a lot of good iron shots, to give myself plenty of birdie chances."

Also at four under par is Westwood's fellow Englishman, Andrew 'Beef' Johnston.

Thursday's biggest disappointment was the performance of tournament host Luke Donald, who slumped to near the tail of the field with a six-over-par 77.

Reigning US Masters champion Danny Willett was forced to withdraw just three minutes prior to Thursday's tee-off with a back complaint.

Leading first round scores in the European Tour British Masters at The Grove club, Watford, north of London on Thursday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 71):

66 - Richard Sterne (RSA), Marc Warren, Mikko Ilonen (FIN), Tommy Fleetwood

67 - Lee Westwood, Andrew Johnston, Lee Slattery, David Horsey, Richard Bland, Alex Noren (SWE), James Morrison

68 - Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Scott Jamieson, Anthony Wall, Shane Lowry, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Chris Wood, Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Tyrrell Hatton, Graeme McDowell

69 - Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Robert Rock, Pelle Edberg (SWE), Matt Ford, Matthew Southgate, Joost Luiten (NED), Marcel Siem (GER), Jeev Mikha Singh (IND)

Selected other scores:

70 - Paul McGinley (IRL)

73 - Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP)

77 - Luke Donald

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