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By his own admission, Danny Willett has struggled to adapt to being a major winner.
The 29-year-old last year became the first English Masters champion since Sir Nick Faldo bagged the last of his three green jackets in 1996.
In the 12 months since, Willett has struggled for form, managing only four top ten finishes and enduring a nightmare Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine where he lost all three of his matches.
Still, to his credit, he’s not about to make excuses for his slump and is, instead, man enough to admit that he’s not coped with the pressure of being a major winner as well as he’d have liked.
“I tried to make a pact to myself not to [feel the pressure] but it’s difficult,” said Willett. “You’ve achieved the greatest height in your game. You have got to the pinnacle. You’ve climbed Everest and you’ve put your flag in. Unfortunately, you’ve got to either climb down or stay up there, and it’s incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time.”
He went on: “We’re on the first tee on Thursday morning and there’s millions of people watching, and if you don’t hit it good, a million people see you hit it poorly and it’s not nice. It’s not a nice feeling to not hit good golf shots when you know what you can do.”
Still, Willett says he is learning to adjust and is confident that he will soon rediscover his best form. “I’ve always said, as long as the work ethic stays good, you keep ticking your boxes, then it’s only a matter of time,” he added. “Unfortunately, it’s not kind of dropped into place yet but I’m still only 29-years-old and I’ve got a long career.”
A long career that, whatever else happens, will see him invited to the Masters every year from now on as a past winner of the event.
Being the defending champion, Willett has a number of responsibilities this week, starting this evening with the Past Champions’ Dinner in the Augusta National clubhouse, where he gets to set the menu. And, being a good Yorkshire lad, it should surprise nobody what he plans to serve up: roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.
Champions dinner by Yorkshire 🥂🍴 pic.twitter.com/H2uMSE2sZR— Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) April 4, 2017
“It’s nothing really off the wall,” he added. “It would have been what most people would have thought of if they were to come to Britain and sit in a pub on Sunday and have their dinner.”
Willett also revealed that he plans to use the dinner to pay tribute to the late Arnold Palmer by leading his fellow champions in a toast to the four-time Masters champion, with the glasses charged with his favourite drink of iced tea and lemonade.
“I think that will go down quite nicely this evening,” he said.
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