Back problem returns to scupper Danny Willett’s plans

BACK TROUBLE: Sheffield's Danny Willett
BACK TROUBLE: Sheffield's Danny Willett
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Masters champion Danny Willett has withdrawn from the forthcoming World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, where he was due to represent England alongside Lee Westwood.

Willett was forced to miss the British Masters last month due to an ongoing back problem and said he did not want to risk aggravating the problem by competing at Kingston Heath.

“I was really looking forward to playing the World Cup with Lee Westwood, but considering everything, including the amount of travel involved and extra strain, decided that it was not in my best interests,” said Willett in a statement last night.

The World Cup – which runs from November 24-27 – would have been the fifth tournament in succession for Willett, who was 75th in the WGC-HSBC Champions and 68th in the Turkish Airlines Open, both events having just 78 players.

The 29-year-old is currently in a tie for 54th in the 72-man field at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City and will need a good performance in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week to overhaul Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson.

Sweden’s Alex Noren is in pole position to claim a fourth European Tour title of the season after a weather-affected second day in Sun City.

Noren carded a second round of 67 to reach the halfway stage of the £5.7m event on eight-under, two shots clear of England’s Chris Wood, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti and home favourites George Coetzee, Louis Oosthuizen and Jaco van Zyl.

Victory tomorrow could take Noren to within 500,000 points of fellow Swede Stenson, who is seven shots off the pace after struggling to a 74.

And it would also take the 34-year-old into the world’s top 10 for the first time, having been ranked 110th in May before winning the Scottish Open, European Masters and British Masters.

Zanotti had earlier recorded the first hole-in-one in the tournament’s 35-year history, following birdies at the first and second by holing out from 210 yards with a seven iron on the fourth.

“It was a great start, I couldn’t believe it,” said Zanotti. “I fought hard all day long and I’m in a very good position for the weekend.”