The 27-year-old Rotherham Golf Club member, who is the son of a vicar, set the clubhouse lead yesterday afternoon with a round of 69 to add to the 66 he posted on Thursday.
It was good enough for a two-shot lead at the time, and even with a number of contenders still to finish their second rounds this morning after a lengthy rain delay yesterday, Willett is handsomely placed at St Andrews, one shot behind Dustin Johnson, 10 under through 13 holes of his second round.
To a wider audience Willett may be an unknown quantity, but the two-time winner on the European Tour has made great strides over the past 18 months.
He is second on the European Tour’s order of merit and ranked 39th in the world, but has never finished higher than 15th in his previous nine attempts at one of the game’s defining tournaments.
Victory this weekend would be life-changing for Willett. Not only would he become the first Englishman to win the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992, he would also become the first Yorkshireman.
“I’ve been told about that a few times in the last 20 minutes,” laughed Willett.
“It’s a big place Yorkshire, but when you consider the rest of the world it’s quite small, so it’s not a surprise.”
Open review: Page 3