Willett’s sharper mental focus helped forge Cologne triumph

Danny Willett’s coach Graham Walker says the 24-year-old’s breakthrough victory at the weekend was the result of him simplifying his mental approach.

Sheffield’s Willett prevailed in a sudden-death play-off with Australia’s Marcus Fraser at the BMW International Open in Cologne to climb back up to 115th in the world rankings.

While his long-time coach shares the view of many that this will be the first of numerous wins for Willett, overcoming that first hurdle owed much to the work they had done together on the young man’s frame of mind.

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“The mental side of golf is about keeping things simple, not over-complicating scenarios,” explained Walker, who coaches Willett at The Oaks, York.

“Mentally it’s about placing different facets of the game into separate compartments. If you work on your putting, work solely on that. If you work on your driving, work only on that.

“That ensures that when you come to putting out on the course, or to your driving, you can draw from that compartment of knowledge. And that’s what we’ve done with Danny.”

Rediscovering a rhythm in his golf swing after rib, groin and back injuries last year was also a priority. Once they were fixed, Walker then worked on improving the practical side of Willett’s game to ensure it would not break down under pressure.

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“We worked on his scoring skills and I’ve also put some shot-shaping into his practice to try to give him a little more club-face awareness,” added Walker.

“Danny’s a hard worker, always has been, but it’s about making sure you channel that hard work in the right areas.”

Qualifying for the Open proved 36 holes too far for Willett at Sunningdale yesterday. He opened with a 71 but failed to make the top 10 places in International Final Qualifying after shooting a 70.

However, Hull’s Richard Finch tied third after shooting a pair of 67s to secure a return to the Open after a three-year absence. He takes his place in the field at Royal Lytham next month alongside Matthew Baldwin, who has Sheffield’s Jonathan Smart on his bag.

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Morley’s Danny Denison missed out after shooting 71 67 while Harrogate’s John Parry withdrew after an opening 73.

Yesterday was also regional qualifying with Lindrick one of 14 courses around Britain hosting local hopefuls.

Twelve players qualified for the final stage in the North West next Tuesday, and among them were:

Aran Wainwright (Mid Yorkshire) 67, Gareth Davies (Abbeydale) 68, Michael Hempstock (Bawtry) 70, Greg Hyde (Pete Cowen Academy), Daniel Wasteney (Bondhay) 70 and Matthew Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire) 71.