It’s time to move on from Augusta, says Danny Willett

Danny Willett answers questions during a news conference ahead of the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey (Picture: Chuck Burton/AP).
Danny Willett answers questions during a news conference ahead of the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey (Picture: Chuck Burton/AP).
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Danny Willett believes it is time to put his Masters triumph out of his mind and focus on making further additions to his trophy cabinet.

Yorkshireman Willett has endured a mixed campaign since claiming his first major title in April, missing the cut in three of his seven events and recording a sole top-20 finish in the BMW PGA Championship after sharing the halfway lead.

The 28-year-old, from Sheffield, also snapped the putter he used to win the Masters in frustration during the US Open and could only finish 53rd in the Open at Royal Troon, 27 shots behind the winner Henrik Stenson.

Victory at Augusta led to numerous off-course opportunities for the world No 9, who was invited to wear his green jacket in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and threw the ceremonial first pitch at a New York Yankees game on Sunday.

But asked ahead of this week’s US PGA Championship if the “Masters madness” was finally over, Willett said: “I would have thought so. It’s a long time ago.

“There’s been two majors since, two other major winners and this is now the last major of the year with a lot of guys trying to play well and have that final one, the guys who haven’t had one this year. And the guys that have one, maybe trying to get two under the belt for the year.

“I think it’s settled down a bit now and 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.

“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 is already guaranteed to make his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in September and will also contest the Olympics in Rio as golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904.

But despite planning to learn what he can from the other British athletes in Brazil, he has no plans to switch sports after his successful baseball debut at the weekend.

“No, I’m not going to do a Jordan on you,” Willett joked in reference to basketball star Michael Jordan attempting to become a professional baseball player.

“It was a great day. It was an honour to be asked to go and it’s an awesome place.

“To be able to go out there in front of quite a few thousand people and not mess up too bad was pretty good.

“We didn’t throw it five yards in front of us. We didn’t hit somebody in the first row, so I think we did all right.”

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy is confident he can turn a B- season into an A+ by claiming a third US PGA Championship title in the space of five years.

McIlroy won the Irish Open in May and has recorded eight other top-10 finishes in stroke play events in 2016, but failed to add to his tally of four major titles in the Masters, US Open and Open Championship.

The 28-year-old opted for “neutral” when asked to describe his 2016 campaign in one word, but feels he can find top gear once more at Baltusrol, especially after Monday’s thunderstorm recalled the soft conditions that prevailed for his breakthrough US Open victory at Congressional in 2011.

“It’s a fair golf course, everything is straight out in front of you,” said McIlroy, who won the US PGA in 2012 and 2014 and has recorded three other top-eight finishes in his seven appearances.

“There’s no real hidden secrets to it and I feel that’s what really lets me excel.

“I feel like I can play my game in PGA Championships. I can hit driver off the tee most times and from there, if I drive it well, I feel like I have a big advantage.

“There’s been times (this year) where I got a little bit of momentum and then sort of got set back a little bit. It’s sort of been a little stop-start in a way. I’m trying to stay as positive as I can.

“I feel like I am positive because my game is in good shape, but I guess I’m just maybe running out of patience a little bit in trying to make it happen. As for a grade, I’d say like a B- maybe. I could change that into an A+ on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of golf left, last major of the year, and I want to give it my all to get in the mix and try to win another one of these things before I have to wait another eight months to try to get another opportunity at Augusta next year.”

If McIlroy does not lift the enormous Wanamaker Trophy again on Sunday it will mean going two full years without a major title, the world No 4 having won the Open and US PGA in 2014, with a first World Golf Championship title sandwiched in between for good measure.

Since then the likes of Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Willett, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have demonstrated the strength in depth of world golf by winning majors, but McIlroy believes he should still expect to be winning one a year himself.

“I’d love to sit here and say I’m going to win a major every year,” he added. “I could retire at 40 and be very happy.”