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Danny Willett is having to manage pain at this week’s Open Championship due to his ongoing back problem.

The 2016 Masters champion has been forced to withdraw from three out of his last five events – the Players Championship, US Open and Irish Open – with the back injury and admitted there was a real possibility he could have withdrawn from the championship.

“It’s been tricky,” admitted the 29-year-old, who shot a one-over-par 71 in the opening round at Royal Birkdale. “We’re on Voltarol which is always nice. You know, it’s the Open and we wanted to be here. We came over on Saturday to give ourselves as much time as possible.

“I brought over the chiropractor, the physio, all the guys just to give ourselves a chance but if I wasn’t feeling right on Tuesday and Wednesday, I wouldn’t have played but it’s felt ok. I’ve managed it quite well. I’ve not done loads and limited myself to nine holes a day so it’s been a case of trying to take it easy. 

Danny Willett1

“I looked out of my bathroom window this morning and thought, ‘This could be interesting’, but it’s held up reasonably alright. Hopefully it can help us get through the week.”

Given Willett’s back issues and poor form so far in 2017 – he has just one top ten – the Englishman was pretty content with his morning’s work in the tough conditions and was pleased with how he responded after three bogeys in a row from the seventh to ninth holes.

“You don’t have to hit too many shots that are that bad to get punished,” he added. “I had a silly three-putt on nine from a nice shot in, I was stuck in a fairway bunker on eight and missed a five-footer on seven. Three holes and before you know it, you blink and you drop three-in-a-row.

“In fairness, I steadied the ship quite nicely. I had a couple of chances here and there but missed a few putts. The greens are a little bit slower today than they have been – they were nine-and-a-half instead of 10.3 – so it’s tricky when you’ve been practicing all week on greens that are a certain amount. But we just kept tootling along.”

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