Late entry Sullivan doesn’t waste time at the British Open | Sports news

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By STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer

SANDWICH, England (AP) – Andy Sullivan was one of the last to reach the field at the British Open and was in the first group to start Thursday.

He doesn’t waste time at Royal St. George’s. Not even some of his compatriots.

As part of a strong early performance by English golfers on home turf, Sullivan rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt to first place after the tee shot at 6:35 a.m. local time, finishing with a birdie for a 3-under 67.

Justin Rose and Danny Willett were on that number too, three strokes behind Louis Oosthuizen’s lead and at the forefront of the English offensive that has been the nation’s first Open champion since Nick Faldo at Muirfield in 1992.

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No English player has won the Open in England since Tony Jacklin in 1969.

“Right now,” said Rose, “I think the chance is probably as great as ours. Maybe even ever. “

Sullivan, 85th, learned he wouldn’t be in the field until Friday while playing at the Scottish Open. He replaced Matthew Wolff, the 54-hole leader at Winged Foot’s US Open last year, who chose not to play.

Sullivan was low on the reserve list, but there were gradually withdrawals for a variety of reasons, some of which were related to COVID-19.

“I didn’t know I was even close to being a reserve,” he said.

He then placed in the opening group of the first round alongside two other Englishmen in Marcus Armitage and Richard Bland, who were given the honor of taking the first shot.

The grandstand around the first tee was almost full and the gallery to the right of the tee was three rows deep when Bland, clearly nervous and longer than normal, started the open with a drive that landed on the fairway and dribbled to the left.

“It was very special, very nerve-wracking,” said Bland, who shot 70 and has a season behind him in which he finally won a title on the European Tour at the 478th tournament of his professional career.

“I was fine when I got down on the tee. A little nervous because you’re about to start a big championship. But then when the announcer said, ‘Right, it’s 30 seconds guys’ you thought that is it. That’s what it’s about. “

Sullivan enjoyed being awake in front of everyone else.

“It’s probably the only event of the year where you don’t really mind getting up early,” said Sullivan. “At other events you practically drag yourself out of bed. … Today wasn’t really that bad.

“You always want to come and play the Open.”

A double breaker for birdie in first place was the highlight of Rose’s round, which was played in the company of high-ranking Dustin Johnson. Rose was bogey-free, which impressed him on what he described as the “gnarled course” where he had previously missed the cut (2003) and reached 44th place (2011).

“To be honest, we all grew up playing links golf and it should be a style of golf we all like,” said Rose of the English contingent, of which the Tyrrell’s number 10 is the highest, Hatton. “Hopefully Royal St. George’s is a lucky omen with St. George’s Cross this week.”

Paul Casey was another Englishman who started well and signed for a 68 that didn’t include a dropped shot either. In the majors of 2021, he finished seventh at the US Open in Torrey Pines last month and fourth at the PGA Championship in May.

Casey made 15 straight pars after making a 4-foot putt for birdie in 3rd place.

“The wish is still there,” he says. “I haven’t won one yet. I really want to, but I don’t feel like it’s putting any pressure on. I just feel excitement every time. It’s like an opportunity. “

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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