July 19, 2018 / 9:07 AM / 6 months ago

Golf-Willett hot as British Open starts in perfect conditions

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland, July 19 (Reuters) - Danny Willett was among the early starters taking advantage of benign conditions as the 147th British Open started smoothly on Thursday.

Willett recovered from a bogey at the first to improve to three under par after 10 holes, one stroke behind South African leader Erik Van Rooyen, who had played 11 holes.

Englishman Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, has found a bit of form recently after a rough stretch, including a tie for sixth at the Irish Open a fortnight ago.

Most of the big names were yet to tee off, though 2013 champion Phil Mickelson was among those out early, even par after six holes.

Veteran Scot Sandy Lyle, the champion way back in 1985, had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 6.35AM local time.

With the stands next to the tee barely half full, Lyle was greeted with warm applause as he striped an iron down the middle of the bone-dry fairway.

Barely a hint of a breeze was evident on another delightful summer morning on the east coast of Scotland.

But the party was not expected to last long, with the winds forecast to pick up towards noon and gust to around 20 miles per (32 kph) hour during the afternoon.

Players were greeted by most parched fairways in recent memory, perhaps even browner and drier than at the 2006 Open at Royal Liverpool.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, world number one Dustin Johnson, 14-times major champion Tiger Woods and four-times major winner Rory McIlroy were among those with late tee times. (Reporting by Andrew Both; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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