Saturday 24 February 2018

Master Willett adjusting to life as a Major champion

Danny Willett (PA)
Danny Willett (PA)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

The voice was slightly hoarse, he looked and sounded tired, but the wearing of the Green sits easily with Masters champion Danny Willett.

Life has changed in so many ways since Sunday, April 10 when Willett (28) won the Masters, but so far, so very good.

"I've just been busy. You know, a lot of commitments you've got to do on and off the golf course. No one really prepares you for that," he says.

"You can't quite understand what guys like Rory (McIlroy) and Jordan (Spieth) go through until you experience it. It's been a busy four weeks."

Among the commitments were two dinners organised by captain Darren Clarke for potential European Ryder Cup team members.

The match against the USA at Hazeltine from September 30-October 2 is very much on Willett's horizon, who is a certainty for selection.

"I actually went to two dinners last week," he explains.

"I went to the one with the more experienced guys, and the one which I obviously will be in, which is the rookie collection.

"It was good to hear Darren speak to the guys and to get in that team environment already.


"It just kind of gets your juices flowing. It's great to get the guys involved and chat through a lot of things."

The Irish Open, his first event in Europe since the Masters, also gets Willett's juices flowing, although he wants to downplay his own expectations.

"I've never played here. I watched the 2006 Ryder Cup, and the golf course looks good," he says.

"I'm trying to not put too much expectation on doing anything particularly fantastic, just really trying to get some rust out of the system."

The Masters was only Willett's fifth Tour victory in the six years since he turned professional in 2008, but when he wins, this guy wins big.

The Masters earned him a cheque for €1,573,839, a hefty dose of world ranking points and box-office status with tournament promoters.

Prior to that, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic win in February enhanced his Ryder Cup prospects and got his 2016 campaign off to a fast start.

His other victories were the 2015 Omega European Masters, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2014 and the BMW International Open in 2012.

The Masters win stands above them all. Willett knows how fortunate he is to have cracked the Major barrier relatively early in his career.

"You compare it to a lot of guys in Europe," he says. "There's some fantastic players who have never been able to win a Major that have won 10, 20 tournaments around the world or in Europe.


"I think that classifies as a fantastic career. There's only four Majors a year, and you've got a 25 year career if you keep fit and play well. So you've got a hundred chances to win.

"If you look at it, percentage-wise, there's very little chance you can do it, especially given the fields you play against.

"Yeah, I just feel very fortunate, that the second time I've been in contention in a Major, I was able to polish it off."

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