Willett leads McIlroy by two at K Club

Danny Willett

Danny Willett won the Masters at Augusta last month

Masters champion Danny Willett leads Rory McIlroy by two shots after the first round of the Irish Open.

Willett fired eight birdies and a bogey in a seven-par-under 65 at the K Club.

McIlroy posted a 67 as he bids to improve his recent poor form at his home tournament, which has seen him miss three straight cuts at the event.

England’s Callum Shinkwin and Jaco Van Zyl lie a shot behind McIlroy, with ex-champions Soren Kjeldsen and Ross Fisher plus, Martin Kaymer three under.

World number three McIlroy, whose Rory Foundation is hosting the tournament, is seeking a first win of the season after six top-10 finishes.

The Northern Irishman recorded three birdies on his front nine, and picked up a further three shots on his inward nine, including a birdie at the 18th.


Rory McIlroy has missed the cut at the Irish Open for the past three years

Willett showed much improved form after missing the cut at last week’s Players Championship at Sawgrass, his first appearance since winning the first major of the season at Augusta.

The 28-year-old’s round of 65 was only one shot off the course record set by South African Charl Schwartzel in 2003.

Heavy rain greeted the early starters but 2010 champion Fisher defied the difficult conditions to birdie three of the first five holes.

The Englishman’s 69 saw him secure the clubhouse lead, along with two-time major winner Kaymer.

Shinkwin and Van Zyl bettered their scores by one, while defending champion Kjeldsen remains well in contention four shots off the lead.

Shane Lowry, who won the title as an amateur in 2009, ended one over, with 2007 champion Padraig Harrington five shots worse off after carding two double-bogeys on his front nine.

Graeme McDowell joined Lowry on one under, with Lee Westwood level par and European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke one over.

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