May 3, 2016
Can Danny Willett kick on from Masters success at US Open?
"Putting at US Open Course, Pebble Beach" (CC BY 2.0) by Supermac1961
Danny Willett stunned the world by producing a fine display on the final day to clinch victory at The Masters.
The 28-year-old capitalized on Jordan Spieth’s horror show on the back nine at Augusta to win the Green Jacket, securing the first major title of his career.
Willett became the first Englishman since 1996, when Nick Faldo won his third Green Jacket, to emerge victorious from The Masters.
As a result, the Sheffield-born golfer has all-but sealed his place in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team when Europe will travel to the USA later this year to defend the trophy.
He will now aim to add further majors to his collection to enhance his reputation in the game and attempt to break up the big three of Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Spieth at the top of the world rankings.
Willett’s first opportunity to notch a second title will come at the US Open in June at Oakmont Country Club. Despite his success at Augusta, the 28-year-old's US Open odds are 33/1, which could prove an enticing option should he maintain his form.
The competition has been a happy hunting ground for European players in recent years, with four of the last six champions hailing from the continent, including Justin Rose in 2013.
The Oakmont course caused problems for all the competitors when it was last used for the tournament in 2007, with Angel Cabrera winning the title with a score of five over.
Willett faced up to a tough challenge at Augusta to triumph on the final day, so he should have no fear about playing on a difficult course.
He displayed nerves of steel on the final day to hole several crucial putts which pushed him ahead of players such as Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson. Willett’s composure will be crucial once again in his bid to prove that his success was not a one-off.
One element outside of the 28-year-old’s control is the form of his rivals and, as McIlroy proved in 2011, he is more than capable of blowing the rest of the field away following his eight-shot triumph at the Congressional Country Club.
The Northern Irishman bounced back from his collapse at The Masters two months earlier, with a dominating display throughout the four days, having never relinquished the lead from the opening round.
Reigning champion Spieth will be desperate to atone for his disintegration at Augusta in his bid to retain the crown, while McIlroy, Day and Adam Scott will also be eyeing an improvement from their lacklustre displays to add to their major haul.
Willett flew under-the-radar at Augusta, having played sparingly on the PGA Tour due his commitments in the European Arena, but he will now have to cope with a higher level of expectation, which will bring a new type of pressure to potentially affect his game.
The 28-year-old has all the attributes needed to claim further success, although golf can provide mental challenges tougher than any sport, which have prevented many fine players from adding titles to their collection.