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 but shot a disappointing six-over-par 76.
After rising to No 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 there was huge Japanese media attention on his playing partner and world No 2 Hideki Matsuyama, who finished tied-second at the US Open.
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.”