EXCLUSIVE: English golfer Danny Willett spoke exclusively to Mirror Sport about his fairytale win at the 2016 Masters as he returns to Augusta National six years after his success.
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There is no doubt that the master tournament is disabled like golf Flagship Event. The sheer history of Augusta National’s legendary setup makes it the event that everyone who’s ever picked up a golf club dreams of winning.
Of course, for a select few, that dream is a reality, and this is true of Yorkshireman Danny Willett. In 2016, the US press quoted Willett as “relatively unknown,” but that’s no longer the case as the 34-year-old’s name is forever etched in golf history.
Willett wrote his name into Augusta folklore after defeating 2015 champion Jordan Spieth and fellow Englishman Lee Westwood six years ago. The victory was certainly an unexpected one for the 34-year-old himself, after the in-form Spieth had a solid lead over the back four with five shots.
The American prodigy was to become tragic, however, when his lead crumbled through the Decamation on the par 3, 12. Spieth’s loss was Willett’s win, of course, and a brave performance on the last four holes of the famous Georgia course had him tucking his arms into the famous green jacket after the round.
That win for Willett wasn’t just any win, it was the most successful title in golf and six years after his famous Major win he still has butterflies. “Every time that time of year comes and things haven’t gone so well, you still go back there and get butterflies. It’s such a special place,” said the Yorkshireman mirror sports .
Of course, Willett and the rest of the field are back in Augusta this week, with the 2022 event starting this Thursday. Returning to the legendary Georgia setup as a former champion makes it extra special for the 2016 winner. He added: “Regardless of good weeks, bad weeks, if you have downtime leading up to that first Major, there’s something very special about going back there as a former champion.
“That’s something I probably overlook sometimes, and then as it gets closer you start to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and it makes you proud.” Looking back on that special day in April 2016, Willett admitted that he still remembers “almost every shot on Sunday and a hell of a lot during the week” when reminiscing.
Winning a major title—not to mention the green jacket—is no small feat, especially when you’re chasing the pack and you’ve got five shots with nine holes left. However, Willett believes passing Spieth late was an easier test and admitted he hadn’t given the win much thought the night before. “Jordan played so well. He played so well in 2015, then rushed to victory in 2016 like it would be the same old story,” he added.
“I don’t think there has ever been a win [in mind], it wasn’t like you slept on a leash. me and johnny [caddie] said, ‘Let’s try to step on the gas and see if we can do anything special and make it interesting’ and we did that again over nine holes.”
Willett’s break came to the top when he left the 15th green as he stayed at four-under with a composed par for the event. Three holes behind, though one of the biggest dips in Masters history unfolded when leader Spieth pocketed two in the water hazard on 12, which then sent him to a devastating quadruple bogey seven.
Spieth’s misfortune ensured the Yorkshireman sat pretty much at the top of the leaderboard and apart from a few noises from the crowd, Willett couldn’t have any wiser about what was going on behind him. He revealed: “There are no electronic scoreboards in Augusta, it’s all manual scoreboards, so you have to say it with the sounds and the oohs and aahs.
“I guess you can feel them and hear them, but obviously you can’t see anything. As we tapped in on par 15 we saw the board change, the crowd went a little nuts… It was a really weird scenario where out of nowhere you were in that position on a say right in the mix with not much holes left to do. It was a nice situation, you’re more in the moment, you didn’t have to sleep on it in the group, you didn’t have enough time to process it.”
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The change at the top no doubt came as a surprise to everyone, including Willett. In those dramatic sporting moments an inspirational cheer often comes and for the Yorkshireman it was one in his head in a toilet on the course before his 16th tee got five swings,’” he revealed.
“A tee shot on 16, drive and second shot on 17 and 18. If we could make five really good swings and pot a couple of puts, you never know what’s going to happen.” Of course, that’s exactly what the 34-year-old did at 16 as a birdie and secured the dream of every golfer with par on the last two holes.
Of course, a win at the Masters not only marks a special day, but creates a legacy for Willett to enjoy for the rest of his life, with previous champions coming back year after year and earning a place among the illustrious champions’ locker room. With each year that passes, the Yorkshireman returns to his Champion Locker and finds his sacred green jacket every time he opens it.
Speaking of this remarkable honor, he said: “When you go into the champion’s dressing room, your face is on the wall, your name is engraved on the bottom of the trophy, your name is on the locker. You meet all the champions, they know you, it’s just surreal. When you finally achieve something like that in your life, something you love to do, it’s amazing to go back and put the jacket on and try to relive some great memories.”
Willett will be back in that locker room and on the famous course this week and the Englishman gave a positive update on where his game stands and his chances in the week. He told Mirror Sport: “I’m feeling good. The game was constant, just not exciting. We work pretty hard and hopefully some of these things will come together and you never know. I can’t say it was outstanding, but there were glimmers as I worked to make things in a really nice place.
“I’ve got to keep up with what I’ve got going on and keep my fingers crossed over the last few days that we go there with the game in shape and hopefully be somewhere in and around a sniff at the weekend.” Willett and company will be in action tomorrow, with the opening round of the Masters starting Thursday.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/golf/danny-willett-masters-butterflies-augusta-26640417 Danny Willett's Augusta Butterflies remain as Brits set to repeat 2016 exploits at the Masters