AUGUSTA, Ga. – The last 12 months have had more downs than ups for Englishman Danny Willett, the Masters beneficiary of Jordan Spieth’s epic collapse on the final nine at Augusta National a year ago.
Give credit to Willett. A year ago, he did what he needed to do on Sunday, climbing from a three-shot deficit and keeping a clean card on a sunny final day in Georgia. He played his final six holes in 3 under and posted 67, which was enough for a three-shot victory once Spieth, who was defending his championship, had stumbled his way through a horrific back nine.
Willett arrived to Augusta on the weekend, and made his way back to the course for the first time since last April. He tried to replicate a few of the shots he’d hit on Sunday a year ago, but at one point told his caddie, Jonathan Smart, that they didn’t even need clubs. The two men could have simply enjoyed a quiet walk.
Winning his first major at 28 heightened Willett’s expectations, and the golf that has followed has not been his best. In 22 worldwide starts since Augusta, he has more missed cuts (six) than top 10s (four). He said his practice sessions are “world class,” but he has had trouble transferring his game into championship competition.
“I think the last 12 months has shown it’s made me a little more impatient,” he said. “It’s a difficult one. I think achieving what I achieved last year and performing under pressure that I did on Sunday, you come away and if you don’t do that every time, you get a bit annoyed. You feel like you should be able to, and you’ve done it once, why can’t you do it every time you play? That’s where the game jumps up and bites you.
“It’s not that easy. You can’t just do it week‑in and week‑out. There’s a few men that have been able to do it over the years, but they are few and far between. I think it kind of put a little bit of impatience in there. And if everything is not going your way, you get a little bit annoyed because you know what you can achieve and when it doesn’t quite come off and you’re not quite performing, that’s a frustrating place to be.”
Nonetheless, getting back on the grounds at Augusta has filled Willett with a good feeling. He will host the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night, hoisting a Ketel One toast to the late Arnold Palmer, and serving up some Yorkshire fare. Thursday, he’ll join Matt Kuchar and U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck going out at 12:21 p.m. When he registered, Willett was given the champion’s traditional number (1), which his caddie will wear on his white bib overalls, but he has a long way to go before he feels like he’s playing anywhere near No. 1. Hopefully, Augusta can inspire him.
“You’ve still got to work hard and you’ve still got to make good golf swings,” he said. “Definitely the feelings of being back are ones that are happy. It’s a great place to be. Obviously, we have got some great memories around here. It’s nice to be back and we’ve had a few days of good work. … now trying to get the game to where I can get back in positions and hopefully do it again.”