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HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Young American tyro Harris English looked like a kid with a brand new toy at Christmas after launching his British Open campaign with a level-par 72 at Royal Liverpool on Thursday.
The 24-year-old was simply purring about his adventures on the Hoylake links and already looking forward to taking up the challenge again in Friday's second round.
"This is my favorite tournament," English told Reuters in an interview on a sun-baked day on the north-west coast of England.
"This is my fifth or sixth major but the fans here are awesome, the course set-up is awesome - this is the home of golf for me.
"It's really cool, as an American who doesn't play links golf a lot, to come over here. It's a different game for sure but I love it," added the world number 48 after ending his round six strokes adrift of championship leader Rory McIlroy.
"Any time you shoot even-par in a British Open it's a good score and it's certainly kept me in the hunt."
English, who has already won twice on the U.S. PGA Tour, said he was enjoying having to play a variety of shots on a traditional coastal layout.
"Some American guys don't like it over here," he added. "I'm not sure why. For me, I want to play as many British Opens as I can.
"The atmosphere is great and the fans understand golf a lot more over here. This was how golf was invented and the way it should be played.
"You have to play so many different shots. In America you could hit a high draw on pretty much every hole but here you've got to flight the ball, curve it, you need so much more imagination.
"I'm comfortable doing that. You've got to be creative and I love doing that," said English who surprised cardholders at the MasterCard Club and Studio as part of the #PricelessSurprises program at The Open (www.theopen.com/MasterCard).
English, who was tied 15th in last year's Open at Muirfield, felt his game reached a new level when he pipped Phil Mickelson for the title at the St Jude Classic in Memphis 13 months ago.
"Coming down the stretch and beating someone like Phil by two shots, birdying 16 and 17 to get a lead and kind of cruising on 18, was huge for me," he explained.
"You get into contention but you don't really know for sure if you can do it because it's such a high level and you're playing against the best players in the world. It gave me a huge confidence boost.
"I've got to sit down and work out what my next goals are but I'd like to reach the top 10 in the world. It's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication but I think that's an achievable target."
English is 15th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, six places off an automatic qualifying position, and he said captain Tom Watson had made contact ahead of the biennial match against holders Europe in Scotland in September.
"Tom said he wanted to partner me at the U.S. PGA Championship next month," added the young American.
"He has kind of reached out and said, 'Hey I'm here if you need me'. He's obviously one of the great ambassadors of the game so we all look up to him.
"Every American dreams of playing in the Ryder Cup. I was fortunate enough to play in the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in 2011," said English.
"That was my first taste of playing for my country and one of the best experiences of my life."
Editing by Martyn Herman