Masters champ Danny Willett eyes greener pastures at PGA
Phil Mickelson watches his shot on the third hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) Since winning the Masters, Danny Willett has taken his green jacket to Wimbledon, thrown out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game and enjoyed the celebrity that goes with being a major champion. Add in fatherhood and it's been a couple of fun months.
Willett's golf game is another story.
He has played in seven tournaments since winning at Augusta and has only one top 10 finish, a third at the BMW PGA Championship in his native England on the European Tour. He tied for 37th in the U.S. Open, finished tied for 53rd in the British Open and missed three cuts.
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The goal for this week at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club is to get his game going again.
''I think it's settled down a bit now. … We are trying to get back down to work and knuckle down because we have got a very important second half of the season coming up,'' said the 28-year-old Willett, who will play in the Olympics and Ryder Cup this year.
''Yeah, like I said before, it's time to move on a little bit from what we did in April. It was fantastic and yeah, it's changed my life, but we need to get back to the kind of form that we took into that week and hopefully then move forward.''
Willett never had a chance in the British Open, simply based on tee time. He had an afternoon draw in the opening round, got the worst of the weather and never recovered.
''You look at the weather conditions were pretty brutal over there,'' Willett said. ''Rory (McIlroy) was the tee time behind us and I think he finished the best from our side at 4 under, I think. To shoot the scores at the boys shot would have been virtually impossible from the times that we played.''
The weather – other than the heat – should not be a problem this week. The battle will be to find the fairways on this tree-lined venue and the center of the rolling greens at this course that last played host to the PGA in 2005, when Phil Mickelson won with a 4-under total.
''I think if you finish anywhere near, I don't know, 6-, 7-, -under par, personally I think that would be a very good golf score for four rounds around this golf course,'' Willett said. ''I could be massively wrong, but from what we saw yesterday, that's how it kind of sits.''
As far as Willett is concerned, this might be the best field of the year, and the event is wide open, at least judging by what has happened this year in the majors. He won the Masters as an unknown, even though he was ranked No. 12 in the world.
Dustin Johnson finally broke through at the U.S. Open after knocking on the major door for five or so years, and 40-year-old Henrik Stenson won his first major at the British Open with a record score to hold off Mickelson.
''It just goes to show the strength and depth throughout golf at the moment,'' Willett said. ''Yeah, there is two, three, four, of the best players in the world that are playing some particularly good golf right now. But it just goes to show on a week-to-week basis that if anyone who is really there pitches up with their A game, they have got a good chance of winning.''
The last player to win the Masters and PGA in the same year was Jack Nicklaus in 1975.