US Open: Willett withdraws after first-round 81 at Erin Hills

Sheffield's Danny Willett.
Sheffield's Danny Willett.
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DANNY WILLETT’S unhappy season continued as the Yorkshireman withdrew from the US Open with an ongoing back injury.

Sheffield’s Willett struggled to a nine-over-par 81 in the first round at Erin Hills, carding a double bogey, eight bogeys and a solitary birdie on the ninth, his final hole.

But his fellow Sheffielder Matt Fitzpatrick qualified for the weekend with scores of 70 73.

“Well I must say... I think that birdie on the last kept me in with a sniff,” the 2016 Masters champion joked on Twitter on Thursday evening, but yesterday he pulled out of the year’s second major before starting his second round.

Willett capitalised on a dramatic collapse by Jordan Spieth to win at Augusta, compiling a flawless closing 67 to become only the second English winner at Augusta National after Nick Faldo, whose third and final win there came in 1996.

The 29-year-old also finished third in the BMW PGA Championship and second in the Italian Open, but was struggling for form by the time of his Ryder Cup debut and failed to win a single point, albeit not helped by his brother’s controversial article about American fans.

So far in 2017 he has failed to convert a three-shot 54-hole lead in Malaysia, become the first defending champion since Mike Weir in 2004 to miss the cut at Augusta and split from his long-time caddie mid-tournament.

From a career-high of ninth in the rankings, Willett is on the verge of dropping out of the top 30, a position he has not occupied since the 2015 Open Championship.