Master Willett is Augusta winner’s priority

Masters champion emerges to a tunnel of photographers at Manchester Airport yesterday. Picture: Tony Johnson
Masters champion emerges to a tunnel of photographers at Manchester Airport yesterday. Picture: Tony Johnson
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Life was beginning to get back to normal for Danny Willett on Tuesday – or as normal as it will be from now on for the new Masters champion.

The 28-year-old emerged into Manchester Airport on Tuesday lunchtime to a corridor of flash bulbs and reporters seeking a glimpse of the country’s new sporting superstar.

After dutifully obliging with a series of interviews – the green jacket of Masters champion looking like it had barely left his shoulders – Willett was greeted by more cameras on arrival at his South Yorkshire home.

This is the new norm for the man from Sheffield, whose accomplishments late on Sunday night at Augusta have thrust him into the spotlight.

He is Britain’s new sporting hero, and in the immediate aftermath of his glorious coronation in Georgia at the weekend, he will have to get used to it.

With a manager as seasoned as Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, and a stable of staff at ISM built to protect and serve their star clients, he has a good team around to help guide him through the next phase of his professional life.

There are already estimates doing the rounds that Willett will earn £5m in endorsements over the next two years.

Getting a balance between cashing in on his new-found fame, enhancing his growing status among the world’s elite and being a doting father and husband presents a huge challenge.

He has already shown where his priorities lie, though, eschewing the chance to go on the chat shows in New York on Monday – as is customary for a major champion – to fly home to be with wife Nicole and their two-week-old son Zachariah.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with Nic and the little man and just enjoying what we’ve just done,” said Willett upon landing in Manchester after an overnight flight from Atlanta.

“Watching it over, seeing the reruns, and going back to being a dad – I’ve got to change some nappies now.

“It’s been a tough week obviously leaving him when he was only just born. We’ve been in contact a lot, but I’m really looking forward to getting back now.”

As well as the well-wishers and media who greeted his arrival, a motion was tabled in Parliament congratulating him on being Britain’s first Masters winner in 20 years.

But Willett – who grew up playing the game in the blue collar surrounds of Birley Wood Golf Club in Sheffield before heading to the more private enclave of Rotherham Golf Club – is intent on taking it all in his stride.

“It’s a nice way to get back into the airport,” he said with a smile. “It’s been pretty big in America, but until you get home I don’t think you can quite realise the scale of what’s going on.

“The more you say it and things like this happen you start to realise just what we did and everything that’s going to go with it.

“Hopefully, we just take it in our stride and enjoy what we’ve done. We’ve had a lot of encouraging messages from really nice people around the world offering advice if I need it so we’ve got a lot of good people on our side. I think we’ll be all right.

“When you’re out on tour it kind of happens anyway, but it just changes things a little bit in normal walks of life, hopefully not too much so we can still have some fun and normality.

“Things are still a bit crazy, everything’s still up in the air, but I think it (winning the Masters) will start slowly sinking in. Once I’m in that house I can lock the door.”

Willett will soon turn his attention to trying to build on his Masters success.

In four weeks he starts a three-week run of important tournaments; the Players Championship in Florida, the Irish Open and the European Tour’s flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth, when the Yorkshireman will be among those taking centre stage.

Willett insisted nothing would change in his approach to golf, one that has seen him rise from a steady ranking of 100 three years ago to ninth in the world.

“We’ll just keep doing the things we’ve been doing, ticking the boxes we said we’d do day by day and making sure we’re trying to get better every time we go out and work,” he added.

“That’s all you can do. If along the way you fortunately play some good golf and win some more tournaments then fantastic, but we’re just going to keep doing all the things we have been doing and hope things continue.”

There to ensure his golfing standards do not slip is a team of experts who will prove just as crucial as his management team in simultaneously keeping him grounded and maximising his potential.

When he does pick up a golf club again, Willett is unlikely to find his coaching team, led by Rotherham’s Pete Cowen, bowing at his feet. Cowen would sooner clip him round the ear for a dip in concentration than pat him on the back for his Augusta breakthrough. That is because as memorable as it was, if he manages the next chapter well, Augusta will only be the start.