Four players tied for British Masters lead after Willett withdraws


Four players are tied for the lead of the British Masters at the end of an opening day that saw Danny Willett, the highest ranked player in the tournament, withdraw. 

Masters champion Willett pulled out of the European Tour event at The Grove because of a back injury.

The world number nine's withdrawal left Alex Noren as the highest ranked player in the field, and the Swede is one shot off the pace through 18 holes - with Mikko Ilonen, Marc Warren, Tommy Fleetwood and Richard Sterne level at the top.

That quartet all carded five-under-par rounds of 66, with Ilonen and Warren each holing an eagle at the par-five second but dropping shots at the 11th and ninth respectively.

Fleetwood and Sterne both shot blemish-free rounds to move into a tie with Ilonen and Warren, but seven players are within a stroke of the lead following 67s.

Noren, David Horsey, Lee Westwood, Richard Bland, James Morrison, Andrew Johnston and Lee Slattery all went four under.

Tyrrell Hatton, fresh off his victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, finished with a 68 - a double bogey at par-three fourth preventing him from sharing the overnight lead.

Chris Wood, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Soren Kjeldsen are also among the nine players who are two shots off the pace.

Andy Sullivan carded a disappointing one-over 72 while former world number one Luke Donald is in danger of missing the cut at a tournament he is hosting.

Donald's sole birdie came at the 15th, the Englishman bogeying five holes and carding a double at the 13th to end the day with a six-over 77.

Jamie Donaldson withdrew after eight holes of play in which he had holed three bogeys and a double, while Jose Maria Olazabal shot a 73 on his return from 18 months on the sidlines.