Next week reigning Alfred Dunhill Links champion Danny Willett will be heading off to Augusta to see if he can win his second Masters green jacket, following his memorable victory in 2016. In what turned out to be an unforgettable year, Danny also won the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship in 2016 with his caddie Jonathan Smart as his playing partner.
Question: It’s now five months since you won the Alfred Dunhill Links. Looking back can you tell us your thoughts now on that victory.
Danny Willett: It was a fantastic week from start to finish as it always is at the Dunhill Links, but to win at the Home of Golf on my 34th birthday was very special and something I’ll never forget. Jimmy [Dunne] and I spoke about partnering up back at Augusta earlier in the year so for the committee to approve that and then to go on and win was also very special. Just a shame that the last putt didn’t drop as I think we’d have tied for second in the Team Championship, but we had fun regardless.
Question: Was there a particular moment in the Championship which you remember?
Danny Willett: The 6-iron I hit into 17 was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit. Obviously there’s not many scoreboards around but I knew I was ahead coming down 17 which is notoriously tricky. Tyrrell [Hatton] and Shane [Lowry] were in the group ahead and on the 18th tee, so to put it to 12-feet like I did, holding it up into the wind was something I remember. I knew after that, a par on the last would probably be enough.
Question: Where do you put that victory in the list of successes in your career?
Danny Willett: It’s right up there yes, I seem to pull it off at some of the best places for sure, but, like I said before, winning at St Andrews is something that I’ll never forget.
Question: It came after you had to take time off for appendicitis in summer, did that make it even more satisfying that you came back and won it?
Danny Willett: Yeah, I had a tricky year with a few niggles, had to pull out of the Players Championship in March with Covid, had a wisdom tooth removed the Monday after the Masters that had been causing me a lot of pain, then having my appendix out just after the Memorial in June was just another setback, so to win in what was a very start/stop year for me was extremely satisfying.
Question: You were back in the Dunhill with Jonathan Smart on the bag – you won the Dunhill Team Championship with him in 2016. Did it make a big difference having Jonathan there at St Andrews last year?
Danny Willett: Yes, Johnny helped me earlier in the year when my caddie at the time, Sam was track and traced on a flight back home from the US so couldn’t fly to Punta Cana to work, so Johnny stepped in at the last minute and we had a nice week, finished top ten. Then we decided to give it another go at The Open, we had another nice week and so took it from there. But it certainly brought back some nice memories being back there together as a team for sure.
Question: We are now just a few days away from The Masters – that must be the most special moment of the year for you after your win in 2016?
Danny Willett: The Masters is always a special week, yes. Obviously now I get to attend the Champions Dinner on the Tuesday, get my boys and Nicole together for the Par 3 tournament, so it’s one of those weeks I look forward to every year now for sure.
Question: What is your mood each year going back to Augusta?
Danny Willett: Firstly I want to compete. It’s a course that I feel suits my game and one I’m getting more and more familiar with now. But the functions around the week just make it like no other event really.
Question: What in particular makes it so special for you?
Danny Willett: I just think the traditions they have make it like no other, no phones on the property, no electronic scoreboards, just little things like that make it very unique.
Question: How do you assess how your golf has been so far in 2022?
Danny Willett: It’s been a slow start, I’ve struggled a little on the greens so I’ve gone back to gripping left below right, I did that when I won the Masters so hoping that starts to bed in again soon and I can tighten up a bit in that department.
Question: How do you rate your chances of winning in Augusta?
Danny Willett: I definitely feel that if my game is in a good place I can compete around there again for sure.
Question: Do you do anything different, or are you the kind of superstitious person who follows the same routine? Any examples?
Danny Willett: I have the same routine before I play, but it’s nothing superstitious, just routine that I work to for timings.
Question: What are your other goals for 2022?
Danny Willett: I just want to get more consistency back in my game, like in 2016 when I rarely missed a cut and would be consistently inside the top 20 each week. That would be the main focus for this year.