Danny Willett shot his best round at a major championship at Valhalla on Saturday despite a slight recurrence of his long-standing back injury, writes Nick Westby.
The 26-year-old from Sheffield has been managing lower back and neck problems for the best part of 18 months, but it has not stopped him climbing back into the top 100 in the world thanks to a run of 18 cuts made prior to last month’s Open.
He made the weekend at the US PGA Championship on Friday with rounds of 68, 73 and then fired himself into contention on Saturday with a stunning 66.
It was his lowest 18-hole score in a major championship, coming in the 21st round of his seventh grand slam event.
And it all happened after he was forced to take painkillers to quell his back problems prior to teeing off.
They certainly did the trick as Willett came out firing, registering birdies at the second and third before holing an eagle putt on the par-five fourth. Further birdies at the 10th and 13th had the Yorkshireman at six under for the day, seven under for the tournament, just two strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.
But a bogey on the 14th followed by four straight pars saw him sign for a 66 and drop back into the pack at six under.
“The back wasn’t great today. I chipped and putted my way around really nicely and got the most out of the round,” said Willett.
“I took on shots when I felt like I could. Apart from that, I just played relatively conservative and didn’t try to do anything stupid, or make any silly mistakes. It’s nice to go out and shoot a nice score with a slightly dodgy back.”
Willett posted a 72 in his final round yesterday to finish on five under par for the tournament and in a tie for 30th place.