Lee Westwood looks to the past to get back in the swing
Lee Westwood found inspiration in past performances as he looked to put his Ryder Cup disappointment behind him with a second victory in the British Masters.
Westwood feels he let down good friend and captain Darren Clarke after failing to win any of his three matches as Europe suffered their heaviest defeat for 35 years at Hazeltine.
The former world number one then followed that disappointing performance by missing the cut in last week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, thanks largely to a second round of 82 at Kingsbarns.
However, Westwood was back to something approaching his best at The Grove, carding six birdies and two bogeys in a four-under-par 67 which left him a shot behind the lead shared by compatriot Tommy Fleetwood, Scotland's Marc Warren, Finland's Mikko Ilonen and South Africa's Richard Sterne.
"I'm really pleased, it's the best I've played in quite a while," said Westwood, who will succeed Luke Donald as tournament host next year, with Close House in Northumberland expected to be announced as the venue shortly.
"My driving has not been great but I drove it really well today, didn't miss a fairway, and gave myself a lot of chances. I've been working on a couple of things on the swing, looking at old videos when I was getting in good positions.
" It's a swing thought I've used for 20 years, just set my right arm a bit faster and a little bit better and it gives me a bit more room on the way down.
"Probably the only poor shot I hit was on the seventh, when Billy (Foster, his caddie) told me left of the green wasn't good and I managed to hit it there anyway."
Warren's only dropped shot of the day came on the ninth, his final hole, after four birdies and an eagle on the par-five second when his five-wood approach from 235 yards finished just six inches short of the pin.
The 35-year-old started last week's event 125th on the Race to Dubai, with only the top 110 after next week keeping their cards for next season, but finished fifth at St Andrews on Sunday to move up 55 places.
"The last couple of months have been tough, trying first and foremost to keep my card, so I was delighted to do that and carry that good form into this week," Warren said.
"The wind was picking up as we were going round so I'm really pleased to get in with a 66. I was not really under too much stress at any time so it was a very enjoyable round of golf. It's not very often you get to walk up and tap-in for eagle, which was pretty sweet."
Dunhill Links winner Tyrrell Hatton also continued his good form with an opening 68 matched by Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Chris Wood, while defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick had to settle for a 70 after two bogeys in his last seven holes.
Tournament host Donald struggled to a six-over-par 77, while Masters champion Danny Willett was forced to withdraw before starting his round, the 29-year-old suffering from the recurrence of a back injury.
Willett, who did not win a point on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine, wrote on Twitter: "Very disappointing WD earlier. Very sorry to everyone, tried to warm up but body wouldn't let me move properly."
There was better news for former Ryder Cup star Jose Maria Olazabal, who carded a 73 in his first competitive round since missing the cut in the Masters last April.
Olazabal, 50, admitted he hit "rock bottom" last December as be battled rheumatoid arthritis, but also hopes to play next week's Portugal Masters before a possible career on the Champions Tour.