Willett’s off to Bay Hill to prepare for Masters

Danny Willett.
Danny Willett.
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Danny Willett makes his first appearance at a regular tour event in America today while nearly 4,000 miles away in the Atalntic Ocean the European Tour returns to more traditional territories.

The Madeira Islands Open is an event co-sanctioned between the Challenge Tour and the continent’s elite tier meaning that a number of players working hard to earn a place amongst the best, get to prove their worth against a higher-calibre field.

Among that number are Woodsome Hall pro Chris Hanson and Howley Hall’s Marcus Armitage.

Hanson, 28, played in the Open last summer after qualifying for the year’s third major at Royal Liverpool. He is entering his fourth year on the Challenge Tour having never finished in the top 50 on the money list.

Armitage, 27, is playing in Madeira by virtue of qualifying through the PGA national order of merit.

They are joined on the Portuguese island by Hull’s Richard Finch, the only member of the European Tour’s top 110 last year in action this week.

Finch, 38, has made only two cuts so far this season and sits 191st on the Race to Dubai standings; a money list that is still topped by Willett following his victory at the lucrative, season-opening Nedbank Challenge in South Africa in December.

Willett, 27, is working towards his Masters debut in three weeks, with Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational his first taste of what a regular US PGA Tour event feels like. A strong weekend at the WGC-Cadillac Championship across Florida at Doral two weeks ago earned him a 12th-place finish and enough ranking points to climb up to 43rd in the world.

Willett is also set to play the Shell Houston Open in the week before the first major at Augusta.

The Bay Hill Invitational is the last tune-up event for the world’s top two golfers, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson, who head to Augusta next month as the favourites to get their arms into the green jacket, with McIlroy chasing the career grand slam and Watson a third Masters title in four years.

This week’s Bay Hill Invitational marks the latest tournament in which former world No 1 Tiger Woods is absent as he recovers from his latest injury setback.