Rio Olympics: Sheffield golfer Willett off the pace in medal pursuit

Danny Willett, of Great Britain, twirls his putter as he walks off the 16th hole with his caddie, Jonathan Smart, left.

Danny Willett, of Great Britain, twirls his putter as he walks off the 16th hole with his caddie, Jonathan Smart, left.

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DANNY Willett admits he needs to buck his ideas up if he is to challenge for a historic Olympic gold medal in Rio.

After carding an opening round of 71, as golf returned to the Olympic programme for the first time in over 100 years, Willett admitted he needed to find his rhythm.

And second time around there was a slight improvement for the 28-year-old, as he went a stroke better playing alongside American Matt Kuchar and China’s Haotong Li.

That leaves him on one under midway through the competition and tied for 22nd place as Australian Marcus Fraser leads the way, nine strokes better off.

Willett is just seven strokes behind Swedish Open champion Henrik Stenson, who currently occupies third, and is certainly not out of medal contention with two days of golf remaining.

But the reigning Masters champion knows he needs to improve and fast if he is to find his way onto the podium.

“We have had two pretty stale days,” Willett admitted.

“But there was a nice finish to my round and to not be a million miles back is good.

“I think we are seven shots off a medal position, which isn’t too much.

“I’m going to go and do a little bit if work and hope to have a better weekend.”

After hitting a hole in one during his opening round, Willett’s teammate Justin Rose carded a two-under par 69.

That leaves him six-under par for the tournament and just four shots behind leader Fraser.

But he admits it hasn’t been easy for him and Willett, with the Rio weather throwing up plenty of surprises along the way.

“Sometimes when it’s wet like that, you kind of feel like the ball can squirt off, especially with the driver,” he said.

“We were battling through some decision making early in the round, it wasn’t just simply into an early rhythm.

“I felt when the winds finally began to settle we were playing some of the tougher holes of the golf course, where, of course, it’s quite tough to make birdies.”

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