Reclaiming Ryder Cup place would underline return to form of Danny Willett

Danny Willett: During his sole Ryder Cup appearance at Hazeltine.Danny Willett: During his sole Ryder Cup appearance at Hazeltine.
Danny Willett: During his sole Ryder Cup appearance at Hazeltine. | PA Wire
Danny Willett’s motivation for earning a second Ryder Cup place comes from his ambition to confirm himself back at golf’s top table, not through any desire to gain revenge.

The Yorkshireman’s sole apearance in the sport’s biennial contest came at Hazeltine in 2016 just five months after he became this county’s historic first men’s major champion when he won the Masters at Augusta.

But it was a tough experience for Willett in Minnesota as he battled with form and health, lost all three matches he played and found himself making headlines for all the wrong reasons, after his brother preceded the tournament with a antagonistic column that riled the Americans.

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Europe were beaten heavily – just the second time Team USA have won this century – and it precipitated a tumble down the world rankings for Willett.

However, his win at Wentowrth in the European Tour’s flagship event in September saw him start the 2020 qualifying process in a strong position.

As it stands, the Ryder Cup scheduled for the end of September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is still set to be played, despite golf and all of sport currently being on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Willett wants to be there, in front of passionate fans naturally – primarily to confirm his return to the highest echelons of the game.

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“When the Ryder Cup comes round, if I’ve got a chance to be involved then that would be a nice one to get back to,” the 32-year-old from Sheffield told The Yorkshire Post.

“To go there and be in a place where I’m better prepared mentally and physcially and my golf game is in a better place, is a big motivation.

“Hazeltine was more of a disappointment for myself because I wasn’t playing well and I had a couple of injuries. You want to play well so you practice more and that leads to injuries and fatigue, so, hopefully, we can go back there with the body in a better place and can push it forward.”

Quite what the state of golf, or the qualifying process would look like, is anyone’s guess.

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The Open was cancelled last week, while the rest of the golfing calendar has been remapped, with the US PGA returning to its former August slot, the US Open scheduled for the week before the Ryder Cup and the Masters now pushed back to November. That could all still change, of course.

“I don’t know how it’s going to work out with the FedEx Cup, with the Race to Dubai, all we can do is get ready to play when the gun goes,” continued Willett, who is up to 33rd in the world rankings. “At the minute, it feels like it will just be certain tournaments scheduled in.

“It’s a strange old time to see how that will work, they will be wanting to finish the FedEx in late August and then the Ryder Cup in late September, so for guys who obviously like to play both sides of the pond like I do, I don’t get how the process can be easily rectified. So all we can do is just be ready when the gun goes.

“We’re going to have to take it week by week, see how we’re feeling. A lot of guys will enter everything and then pull out as and when they don’t feel like they can play.

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“Right now, you’re just trying to practice, you’re trying to do stuff, and usually you have a timescale; I’ve got two weeks to do this, I’ve got a month to prepare etcetera.

“There’s none of that, we’re just trying to keep ourselves busy, keep ourselves prepared.”