Tommy Fleetwood feared he had let his supporters down after making a disappointing start in his hometown Open at Royal Birkdale.
Southport-born Fleetwood, who used to sneak on to the championship course to play as a child, was given a hero’s welcome on Thursday but shot a disappointing six-over-par 76.
After rising to number 14 in the world and finishing fourth in last month’s US Open, Fleetwood had been tipped as a contender but he hopes he can still give the locals something to cheer.
On his reception on the first tee, Fleetwood said: “It was cool, it was brilliant. It was an amazing atmosphere, something you don’t get very often. I loved it and it was great having them out there.
“It’s so easy to feel like you’ve disappointed them a little bit when I played the way I did but I will try my hardest tomorrow. They did their part, I just didn’t do mine.”
Fleetwood had large numbers following him throughout while playing partner and world number two Hideki Matsuyama, who finished tied-second at the US Open, commanded huge Japanese media attention.
Remarkably the third member of the group, Brooks Koepka, who actually won at Erin Hills, had the smallest following of the three – but it was the American who shone, shooting 65.
Fleetwood said: “He’s one of the best players in the world and he played fantastic golf. He was brilliant.”
Fleetwood did not feel he played badly but was punished heavily for slight errors, such as when he had to play from a bank in rough on the sixth and from under a bush on the ninth.
He said: “Everything felt the same, it just wasn’t great. I got a few bad breaks. If I did hit a bad shot it really kicked me in the teeth. Then when I hit good shots I didn’t make the birdie putts.
“On the last four holes, with two par fives, if I could have got it back to two over it wouldn’t have been that bad a day but it went the opposite way.
“So, it’s not very good but I’ve come back from bad rounds before.”
Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth gave himself nine out of 10 after beginning his bid to secure the third leg of a career grand slam in impressive fashion in the 146th Open Championship.
Spieth carded a bogey-free 65 at Royal Birkdale to share the early clubhouse lead with US Open champion Koepka, whose round included four birdies and an eagle.