The English maneuvered into early position Thursday to make another statement about what kind of golf power they’re becoming. The Englishmen now plying their trade at the highest level.

They’re playing tough to win back-to-back Masters for the first time in almost three decades, since Nick Faldo (1989-90) won in consecutive years.

Lee Westwood, looking to follow Danny Willett as Masters Champion, opened with a 2-under-par 70, leaving him five shots off the lead. There are four Englishmen T-4 or better through the first round, five at T-12 or better.

This is already a record year for the English at the Masters. There are 11 Englishmen in this year’s field, most ever in a Masters. No other country outside the United States has more participants.

Paul Casey opened with a 72, and Willett isn’t far back after rebounding from a poor start in his title defense. Willett opened with a double bogey and a bogey before rebounding with a birdie. He shot 73.

Westwood, 43, is seeking to win his first major. He has nine finishes of third or better in majors.

Like Willett, Westwood got off to a sluggish start. He was 3 over making the turn but reeled off five birdies in a row starting at the 13th.

“I’ve just been patient,” Westwood said. “Just kept plodding along.”

Westwood, 43, tied for second behind Willett at last year’s Masters. It was Westwood’s third finish of T-3 or better at Augusta National over the last seven years.

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