Danny Willett’s healthy glow after Englishman puts a torrid four months of pain behind him to open with a fine 67 on first day of The Open
- Danny Willett returned from a tumultuous four months with a 67 at The Open
- The 33-year-old Yorkshireman has faced numerous health issues recently
- However, he put in a fine opening round performance in Sandwich, Kent
- Willett won The Masters in 2016 and he is never frightened of winning
Amazing what Danny Willett can do when he’s feeling in good health. The man who’s had almost as many hospital visits as to the first tee this season opened with a fine 67 on Thursday. Best of all, he wasn’t clutching any part of his anatomy as he walked off the 18th green, his face grimaced with pain.
A hernia, a wisdom tooth operation, appendicitis, Covid. All in four months. ‘Anything else goes wrong with me this year and you might not be seeing very much more of me,’ the 33-year-old Yorkshireman chortled, only partly in jest.
The wonder is that his game has held up when he’s been able to play. ‘I just haven’t been able to get into a run of events,’ he said.
Danny Willett put in a fine opening round performance at The Open on Thursday
The 33-year-old has endured a tumultuous four months having encountered health issues
Willett thought it a good sign when he sneezed on Saturday and wasn’t instantly reaching for the painkillers. He had his appendix out and a hernia op only last month and is managing his recovery. ‘The two ops were done at the same time and it meant they went into me in three places but they had to cut through my oblique muscles and that’s the bit that has been hurting,’ said Willett. ‘I know it sounds stupid but it was joyous to sneeze without any pain.’
Willett has the correct ball flight for links golf and the requisite imagination around the greens. In the last Open, he recovered from an opening round of 74 to finish tied sixth at Royal Portrush. ‘I can’t tell you how nice it is to play in front of a home crowd,’ he said. ‘It would have been a travesty to play last year without the fans.
However, he has bounced back and scored a fine 67 at a resplendent Sandwich, Kent
The Yorkshireman won The Masters in 2016 and has what it takes to win another major
‘It was very satisfying to play well for them and my home country. I began solidly, made mistakes bad enough for the course to grab up and bite me in the middle of the round, but I’m really pleased with how I finished. I hit the ball really well coming home.’
Level par standing on the 14th tee, Willett took the birdie chance at that dangerous par five and followed it with another at the difficult 15th. A crisp iron shot to the 18th set up his three-under-par round.
Ask him where he ranks in the Ryder Cup standings and he smiles. ‘Very low, I should think,’ he says. But he was invited to a dinner in Scotland last week for players that Padraig Harrington thinks are still in the picture. The captain has not given up on him.
Willett is that rare creature at Royal St George’s this week — an English major winner. The last English major winner. The story of his rollercoaster career is that he is never frightened of winning when he gets into contention. Keep an eye out for the former Masters champion now he’s finally fit.