Until a few days ago, the closest Sheffield’s Danny Willett came to playing Augusta National was on a simulator at Doncaster Golf Range, where he also gained his first experience of Doral before last month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Considering the 27-year-old Yorkshireman finished joint 12th following a closing round of 68 on the Blue Monster, perhaps it is not too fanciful to suggest Willett could become the first Masters debutant to slip on the green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
“I’ve always said if you’re not going to go to an event and be fully prepared to try to win, there is no point going,” said Willett.
“You don’t pitch up to try to finish 15th, 30th or just try to make the cut; you try to go and win regardless of the field or whatever.
“If you can’t do that I don’t know what your own long-term goal is. I have my own idea of where I want to be and it’s not finishing mid-pack.”
Rory McIlroy might have something to say about such lofty ambitions this week, but Willett is well aware of the world No 1’s capabilities from their amateur days.
The pair met in the first round of the Amateur Championship in 2007 and Willett was five up after six holes before eventually sealing victory on the 17th. Later that year they were on the Walker Cup team as Great Britain and Ireland lost out at Royal County Down to an American team featuring Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson. “That was a long time ago now; both of our games have changed since then so hopefully we can be on the same team in Ryder Cups, and I can beat him a few more times,” added Willett.
“I think I was the last person to beat him as an amateur before he turned pro. He’s a very difficult person to beat right now on a golf course. It’s pretty phenomenal golf he’s playing.”
Willett swapped the simulator for the real thing before heading to Texas to play in the Shell Houston Open and was understandably excited by the prospect.
“Gym time before typing magnolia lane into the sat nav!!! Boom!!” he tweeted.
Willett and his friends and family will be renting two houses in Augusta for the week, while his wife Nicole will be carrying his bag in the traditional par-three contest on Wednesday. “My wife was born on the Sunday that Sandy Lyle won (in 1988) so that could be an omen,” joked Willett.
Willett will look to pick the brains of the likes of stablemate Lee Westwood in practice, the former world No 1 having finished in the top 10 in each of the last three years and second in 2010.