Willett ready to deal with increased expectations

Phil Casey 20/04/2016
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Green jacket: Danny Willett.

Danny Willett is ready to deal with the soaring expectations that come with a Masters Green Jacket, as soon as he gets round to picking up his clubs again.

Willett claimed his first major championship at Augusta earlier this month, seeing off Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood by three shots in a thrilling final round.

His life changed in an instant, with doors opening to the Olympics and the Ryder Cup this year as well as a career-best ranking of No. 9.

The 28-year-old Yorkshireman has also agreed to join the PGA Tour, which awarded him a five-year exemption yesterday lasting to the end of the 2020/21 season. And when he takes the field at the Players Championship in Sawgrass on May 12 he will do so with a target, rather than a Green Jacket, on his back.

“People will look at you in a new way now, expecting you to be brilliant every time you peg up,” he said. “You never know exactly how you’ll deal with that until you’re in the situation, but I know I’ll have to prepare really well to give myself the best chance to play well.

“I realise that is golf: one week you can go from winning the Masters and the next you can be shooting 85 quite easily.

“But I’m looking forward to the Players Championship, it’s a great event and it’s back in America.”

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Danny Willett joins PGA Tour after Masters win

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Heading stateside: Danny Willett.

Danny Willett has joined the PGA Tour following his victory at the Masters earlier this month.

The PGA Tour announced Willett, 28, has received a five-year exemption on the US tour, taking him through to the end of the 2020-21 season.

The move comes a little over a week after Willett won at Augusta by three shots from Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood for his first career major.

Willett was awarded 600 FedExCup points for his Masters win which, combined with the 44 he took at the Valspar Championship earlier in the year, place him 27th in the standings ahead of the Valero Texas Open.

The Yorkshireman has begun the 2015-16 season with three top-five finishes in five US tour events, also winning the Dubai Desert Classic, and has risen to number nine in the world.

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Joy of Golf: Willett’s win was timed to perfection

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Winning on all fronts: Danny Willett.

The first major of the year is in the bag, and it was as thrilling as it gets. For 65 holes, it looked as if there was no stopping Jordan Spieth. And then came the twist in the tale.

The Masters lived up to all the hype that always surrounds it in the build-up. The leaderboard had quality written all over it from the opening round, and the golf course was a fantastic test.

The weather was testing at times with wind gusts in the range of 20-30mph, but Augusta National remained a fair challenge test throughout. As we do every week after a major championship, here is our report card from the 80th Masters…

Danny Willett (10/10):

Some critics may attribute the Englishman’s Green Jacket to the collapse of Spieth, but the simple fact remains – you’ve got to get yourself in the position where you can benefit from such mishaps. Nobody in the field did it better than Willett.

In my opinion, a bogey-free 67 in the final round of the Masters when in with a chance, deserves a reward as great as what he eventually got.

Willett did benefit from something that happened the week before – he became a father. It is well known his son was due on April 10, but arrived 10 days before the due date. That not only allowed him to play the tournament, but also reach Augusta National without any weight of expectation and in very good spirits.

He did not come to the Masters with much practice, but as he showed throughout the week, he did not have much rust either.

Lee Westwood (9/10):

Beaten by two of the three best final-round efforts at Augusta National. In 2010, Phil Mickelson shot 67, this year it was Willett’s turn to do the same. The only other better fourth round by a winner is a 66 by Doug Ford in 1957.

The Englishman has endured a tough last few months, candidly admitting that the changes in his personal life have impacted his game. But one of the finest ball-strikers in the game showed he is ready for another surge in his career.

Jordan Spieth (9/10):

He must still be fuming about what happened, but let there be no doubt about his ability on one of the most demanding golf courses in the world. To finish second-first-second in three starts in Augusta National is an awesome record.

To be fair to Spieth, just one hole – the 12th on Sunday – did all the damage. He did extremely well to make a couple of birdies after that. However, his big test will come next year when he goes back to Augusta.

Bryson DeChambeau (9/10):

Playing his last tournament as an amateur, ‘The Golf Scientist’ dazzled the fans with his attitude and game.

He did not have the best third round and eventually finished in the 20s, but given the fact that he was playing with an aching hip and with the knowledge that his father is sick (his kidneys have failed and he is about to receive one donated by Mike Watney, uncle of PGA Tour star Nick), it was an astonishing effort.

Ernie Els (8/10):

Surprised? Why should someone who missed the cut get such high points? Well, what Els did speaks so much about the character and heart of the man. Everyone knows he is struggling with the yips, and then to make a six-putt for a quintuple bogey on the first hole itself, would have deflated most players. But not Els, he kept fighting, eventually finishing with rounds of 80 and 73. A stupendous effort indeed.

Rory McIlroy (6/10):

A tied 10th finish is always good in a major, but not when you are McIlroy. He had a chance after the first two rounds, but the inexplicable stretch starting Saturday where he went 22 holes without a birdie, killed his chances. The world No3 will now have to wait another year for a chance to complete his career grand slam.

Jason Day (6/10):

It was always going to be difficult to remain at your best form for three successive weeks. The Aussie did show flashes of brilliance every now but could not maintain the hot start which saw him race to five-under at the turn on the opening day. The triple bogey on the 16th took the wind out of his sail.

Phil Mickelson (3/10):

Lefty has an outstanding record at Augusta National and he came into the tournament in decent form. But the three-time champion had a meltdown on the second day that was even worse than McIlroy’s in 2011, or Spieth’s this year.

Mickelson kept leaking until he ran out of fuel.

Dustin Johnson (7/10):

The athletic American was once again in contention, which is a great thing by itself, but what must be worrying for him is how he missed another opportunity to get his maiden major title. The late double bogey on 17th hole denied him a solo second place finish as he tallied one-under par 287

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