Quirk Of Fate Leaves Yorkshire’s Willett Eyeing Major Glory At The PGA Championship

Quirk Of Fate Leaves Yorkshire’s Willett Eyeing Major Glory At The PGA Championship
Quirk Of Fate Leaves Yorkshire’s Willett Eyeing Major Glory At The PGA Championship

When golf’s civil war – sparked by the formation of the breakaway tour LIV Golf – erupted, one man from Yorkshire was watching on as closely as anyone.

Danny Willett had, mathematically speaking, lost his PGA TOUR playing privileges in the summer of 2022 after failing to claim enough FedEx Cup points.

But as the 20 rebels set sail for LIV’s brave new world, it meant that Willett was ensured a stay of execution on the PGA TOUR– it’s a chance he has, so far, taken with aplomb.

Major Moments

Improvements in form during the 2022/23 season have led the Yorkshireman back to the site of his most famous day in golf: the majors.

The former Masters champion will take his place in the field at the 2023 PGA Championship, where he’s valued at 175/1 for those placing their golf bets. It’s a price indicative of his struggles on the course, but one that could reflect value if Willett can deliver his best game on the big stage.

You probably won’t see Willett’s name mentioned as part of many golf tips this week, but he has shown enough green shoots of recovery this term to suggest he can contend at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.

Willett could – and perhaps should – have won the PGA TOUR’s seasonal opener at the Fortinet Championship. He held a one-shot lead heading into the tournament’s final hole, and after watching nearest rival Max Homa chip in to apply the pressure, Willett somehow missed two putts to see his advantage turned into a one-shot defeat.

The 34-year-old remained typically upbeat after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, choosing to focus on the positives of coming so close to a first PGA TOUR win in six years. “Disappointing way to finish, but you know, first event of the season, to be in contention, things are in a good place,” was his honest assessment.

Gathering Momentum

It’s been a typically inconsistent ride on the Willett train since the autumn, but there have been some memorable moments of positivity that should hand the Yorkshireman confidence ahead of his return to the major spotlight.

Finishes of 18th and 27th might not appear to be a cause for celebration, but those were achieved in high-quality events – the Genesis Invitational, which now enjoys ‘elevated’ status on the PGA TOUR and attracts many of the best golfers on the planet, and the Players Championship; unofficially regarded as golf’s fifth major.

It’s proof positive that Willett can still mix it with the best in the business – a notion the Yorkshireman franked during that remarkable run to the famous green jacket at The Masters in 2016.

In interviews since, Willett has admitted that he felt ‘rubbish’ at times as he adjusted to the spotlight of joining golf’s hall of fame of major champions – before defiantly recognising that the only way to replicate the good times is to go out and win another one.

Whether that happens at Oak Hill remains to be seen, but a player who has risen up the world rankings from 492 at his post-Masters nadir to 100 during his encouraging 2022/23 campaign can take plenty of encouragement from how things are going.

And, as Willett proved as a 150/1 winner at Augusta all those years ago, he’s got the game to beat anybody.

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