Danny Willett hoping for Sunday showdown with Rory

The Race to Dubai leader spoke to James Savage on the eve of his Masters debut

“Everyone remembers the chip but it was a horrendous golf shot to hit it where he hit it.”

That was Danny Willett’s assessment of Tiger Woods’ famous chip-in on the 16th during the 2005 Masters. He was 17 at the time.

As you can probably tell, he’s a confident lad. And he has reason to be after breaking into the world’s top 50 and looking forward to his Masters debut.

It was victory at the Nedbank Championship which thrust Willett over the line and into the company of the world’s elite golfers – a position where he believes he could have reached a lot sooner had it not been for back injury problems.

The Yorkshireman made an impressive start to his PGA Tour season with a T12 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and followed it up with a T29 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He still sits at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings – closely followed by a certain Rory McIlroy.

And Willett is not intending on just making up the numbers on his Augusta debut – he wants to go head-to-head with the world number one on Sunday afternoon.

“Rory is a very difficult man to beat right now,” Willett said. 

“The only person who has done similar to what he did last year was Tiger back in his prime.

“You can only see Rory getting better and better – he’s still a young lad. If you are one shot ahead of him in every tournament you play then I think you’ll end up doing alright.

“I don’t think you can think of anything better than going head to head with Rory on the final day of a Major. 

“It’s where we all want to be – right in the mix in the final round of a Major. Whether it’s with Rory, Jason Day, Martin Kaymer or whoever. You want to be there on a Sunday coming down the stretch because there’s no better feeling in golf.”

Despite claiming not to have a plethora of Augusta memories from watching the event on television, the excitement is still there.
Everything around the event is just that bit different and that little bit more special" “Once you are in the car driving down Magnoila Lane, that’s when it hits you and the adrenaline starts to get going,” he added.

“It’s about being able to see the little things like inside the locker room and what it looks like, inside the clubhouse, because these are the things that very few people in the world will ever get to see.

“There’s traditions and rules like having to ask for permission for your coach to go on the driving range. 

“Everything around the event is just that bit different and that little bit more special. Everyone who you speak to will tell you how cool it is. 

“It’s going to be great fun. Preparing for a brand new golf course is something I had been looking forward to. 

“You’ve got to map out the greens, the different lines on fairways, where the run outs are. 

“The whole experience of going to a new golf course and trying to prepare to shoot good scores on it is actually quite exciting.”

Rookies don’t tend to set the world alight at Augusta but Jordan Spieth came close to disproving that theory last year before eventually losing out to Bubba Watson.

Willett clearly has belief in his ability to do well but it not setting himself any particular targets.

“As every  golfer knows you can play brilliantly one week and should level par and then play a bit iffy the next and be three or four under,” he added. 

“You can get the bad side of a draw or a bad bounce here or there and that makes the difference.

“All you can do is prepare as well as you can, find out where you do and don’t want to hit the ball on the golf course and then execute the plans as well as you can.”

The bookies don’t see Willett as a threat with some offering odds of 250/1. But the Sheffielder is clearly relishing the challenge and feels at home on the big stage.

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