Coetzee, Hatton Early Leaders at British Masters

South Africa’s George Coetzee and native son Tyrrell Hatton are tied for the lead at the British Masters after the opening round on Thursday. Both men shot 7-under 63s.

Coetzee exploded out of the gate with two birdies and an eagle 3 on the par-5, 454-yard No. 6 to hit the turn at 4-under. He added three birdies and one bogey on the back nine.

Hatton was 2-under through 11 holes, then rattled off five birdies i his last seven holes to tie for the lead.

Five players are tied for second, one stroke back at 6-under. All five are currently outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings, so a victory here would be enormous. Among them is Brit Chris Hanson, who recorded five birdies in his first seven holes.

Sweden’s Alex Noren, the 2016 champion, struggled to a 1-over 71 on Thursday.He was 2-under through eight holes before bogeying 9 and 12 to drop to even par. He birdied 13 but suffered a double-bogey 6 on No. 16.

Much closer to the top of the leaderboard is 2015 British Masters champion Matthew Fitzpatrick. He shot a 4-under 66 with only one blemish – a bogey on 14 – and is tied for 13th with the likes of Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

Rory McIlroy is tied for 24th at 3-under, four strokes off the lead. He recorded four birdies and one bogey on the day.  McIlroy has finished in the top 10 six times this year but is still chasing his first win.

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