Friday 19 July 2019

Willett set for big test

CHALLENGE: Danny Willett of England
CHALLENGE: Danny Willett of England

Former Masters champion Danny Willett is relishing testing himself against the strongest field in golf in the US PGA Championship as his comeback gathers momentum.

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but had slumped outside the top 450 earlier this year after suffering injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in the French Open was his ninth in 12 events in 2018, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back to finish sixth in the Irish Open, 19th in the Scottish Open and 24th in the Open Championship.

That result at Carnoustie was his best finish in any major since the 2016 Masters and a welcome further boost of confidence ahead of the final Major of the year at Bellerive Country Club.

"I'm actually going there really looking forward to taking on the challenge of a US PGA," Willett said. "I've never performed that well at a US PGA because my game probably wasn't suited for those types of golf courses.

"So I'm really excited to go and see where I'm at right now and playing in an event that I think is a very tricky one to win, because you've got probably the best field in the world with the top 100 guys in the world there."

Willett credits coach Sean Foley - who formerly coached Tiger Woods - and fitness trainer Kevin Duffy for his resurgence. He first started working with Foley at last year's US PGA at Quail Hollow, but he admits it has been hard work to get to this point after having to overcome injuries which left him struggling to get out of bed in the morning before he could then make significant changes to his swing.

"I imagine I've been a horrible person to be around at times purely because you're working so hard and it was so abrupt how it happened," Willett added.

"I reached the top in professional golf in winning a Major and perhaps should have won back-to-back Order of Merits and all of a sudden the injuries crept up on us pretty quick."

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