Michael Hoey and Graeme McDowell have both got off to steady starts at the British Masters at Woburn.
Hoey played well to finish on two under par, while McDowell was a shot back on one under after a good round, but Darren Clatke is on three over.
The early leader is Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick as he fired six birdies and an eagle in an opening seven-under-64 to lead by one from compatriot Lee Slattery, Scotland’s Marc Warren, Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson.
Irish duo Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington were part of a six-strong group on five under, with Luke Donald a shot further back and a “nervous” tournament host Ian Poulter carding a 68.
Fitzpatrick is in his first full season on the European Tour after coming through the qualifying school last November, but is currently 36th on the Race to Dubai after three top-three finishes in his last seven events.
“Same again this week would be lovely,” the 21-year-old former US Amateur champion said. “It’s a great start today and I just need to keep working hard on my game.
“It was a tough start to the year and I missed a few cuts in a row, although I felt like I was playing all right, but now I am playing decent and getting the results I am looking for.
“I started hitting a fade in Switzerland (where he finished second) and maybe have a little bit more control over the ball now; the bad ones are not as destructive.”
The British Masters was last played in 2008, but has returned to the European Tour schedule with Poulter, Donald, Westwood and Justin Rose taking turns to act as tournament host at different venues.
Donald is considering options including The Grove in Hertfordshire or links courses in the south east of England, while Westwood favours Close House in the north east. Rose is understood to be hosting the tournament at Walton Heath next year.
“We want to play more tournaments in Europe,” admitted former European number one Karlsson, who was denied a share of the lead by his solitary bogey of the day on the 18th.
“I’ve been on tour for 25 years and when I started there were six or seven in England. To have just one sponsored by the Germans (BMW PGA Championship) does not feel right.”
Warren had set the early target after making the most of new equipment and his opportunity to impress playing partner Darren Clarke, who will captain the European Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine next year.
“I like testing new equipment, but unless it’s absolutely right it doesn’t go in the bag,” Warren said. “I’ve used the same ball and irons for three years and the driver for a year, so this is rare for me.”
“I am enjoying it here and I have to keep that going.”