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Meet 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett

 

Meet 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett

By Burt Carey

While all eyes at Augusta National were on defending champion Jordan Spieth hitting his ball into Rae’s Creek twice on the 12th hole during the final day of the 2016 Masters Tournament, Englishman Danny Willett saw the score get posted on the leaderboard at the 15th hole.

Danny Willett

Danny Willett

Down by five shots just three holes earlier, Willett’s -4 score was suddenly at the top of the leaderboard. He birdied No. 16 and parred the final two holes, then took his 5-under score to the clubhouse and waited for Spieth to finish at a disappointing 2-under.

The 80th Masters had an improbable and yet elated new champion.

At just 28 years old, Willett was the last of 89 Masters qualifiers to show up in Augusta. He and wife Nicole welcomed their first child, son Zachary, into the world on March 30, and it took some prodding by Nicole to convince him to play in the tournament. Willett braved through three extraordinarily windy days, posting scores of 70, 74 and 72 before firing a bogey-free 67 on what has become the most important day in his professional golf career.

He’s just the second British player to win the Masters. Sir Nick Faldo has three green jackets, the last coming 21 years ago.

American golf fans know little about the newest major champion, but his European Tour credibility is well-established. With four tour wins in Europe, including the Omega European Masters in 2015 and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2016, Willett’s third-place finish at the WGC Cadillac Championship helped him climb to No. 12 in the World Golf Rankings entering the Masters. He’s now ranked No. 9.

Willett was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, to Steve and Elisabet Willett. His dad is a Church of England vicar, and his Swedish-born mom is a mathematics teacher. Twice his parents took out mortgages on their home to finance Willett’s amateur golf pursuits.

He played collegiate golf for two years at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2006 and was the medalist of the 2007 OVC Championship. He also won the English Amateur Championship in 2007 and made that year’s Walker Cup team. Ranked the No. 1 amateur in the world in March 2008, he turned pro and earned his European Tour card via qualifying school in 2009.

Prior to the 2016 Masters, his best finish at a major was a tie for 6th at the 2015 Open Championship. Willett hasn’t fared as well on American soil, tying for 45th place in 2014 and missing the cut in 2015 at the U.S. Open, and tying for 40th, 30th and 54th places in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 PGA Championships, respectively.

After Spieth slipped the green jacket onto Willett, the new champ said, “It was a very surreal day when you look back at the ebbs and flows.”

He was pared with fellow Englishman Lee Westwood in the final round, a fortunate circumstance as the two share the same sports management company and have played many rounds together both competitively and socially. “I couldn’t have asked for a better pairing,” he said. “Playing so much with Lee and Darren (Clarke) has helped me be comfortable around great players. My coach, Pete Cowen, told me earlier this year that I have to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That helped too.”

Westwood finished at 2-under in a tie with Spieth for second.

“You never feel comfortable on this golf course, not until you finish, sign your card and post a number,” Willett added. “I knew I still had a job to do. He (Spieth) was only three back so there were plenty of holes for him to catch up. That made my birdie on the 16th really timely. And I hit a great chip on the 17th. But that’s why you put in the endless hours chipping, putting, hitting shots, imagining hitting shots at certain courses at certain times.”

Source:  Baret News

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