Fewer top-level golfers have endured a struggle over the past 18 months quite like 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett.
After finishing second in the Race to Dubai in 2016, which was aided by his maiden major triumph, the Englishman recorded only one top ten in 25 European Tour starts from the beginning of 2017 up until the Italian Open in early June.
The primary reason for this catastrophic loss of form, for a player who had won four European Tour wins to his name in a 16-month period from December 2014 to April 2016, was a serious back issue.
In a revealing blog post on the European Tour website in October last year, Willett wrote: “I’d be taking painkillers in the morning after waking up in pain, getting an hour of physio before each round, playing the round with a swing that hurt, then needing an hour of physio after the round. I was just knackered.”
With a swing change required, in August last year Willett made the big decision to switch coaches from Pete Cowen to Sean Foley and, after nine months of working together, the endless hours of hard graft finally showed signs of paying off after the 30-year-old finished eighth at Gardagolf six weeks ago.
“After the past 18 months, I would say the Italian Open was probably the most satisfying result in my career that hasn’t been a win,” Willett told bunkered.co.uk ahead of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
“I played well, everything I’d been working on felt nice and I seem to be getting to a place now where I’ve got the ability to practice and put the hours in and that’s starting to pay off in some of the results I’ve had. It’s all been really positive.”
The resurgence continued further at the Irish Open last week, where he finished sixth, and Willett now sees no reason why he can’t get into contention again at Gullane.
“To be in the mix again in Ireland was great as I’d had a bit of an injury setback (knee) after Italy,” he added. “I just couldn’t quite polish it off. But my game feels in a reasonable place and my body feels good, so if I work hard and get a couple of good breaks, who knows what could happen this week?”