Grounded Danny Willett set on closing the gap on '˜big three'

THE UNITED STATES may be inextricably linked with Danny Willett's greatest moment in golf so far, but the Yorkshireman has revealed he has no plans to move across '˜the Pond' any time soon '“ despite hitting the big time.

Masters champion Danny Willett with his wife Nicole and baby Zachariah at Lindrick Golf Club in South Yorkshire. Picture: Ross Parry

Talk of Willett is still hogging the conversations not only in clubhouses throughout the Broad Acres, but around the globe following his inaugural major win at the Masters – and more especially those Stateside.

On Monday night, the PGA Tour announced that Willett had joined their ranks following his magnificent three-shot victory in Augusta, receiving a five-year exemption on the US tour that runs through to the 2020-21 season.

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While Willett will spend a fair amount of his time in the States in the coming years, home is still very much in Yorkshire with his wife Nicola and newborn son Zachariah, who arrived on March 29.

Masters champion Danny Willett, of England, gives a thumbs up after winning the Masters at Augusta. Picture: AP/Chris Carlson.

Willett, who jumped up to world No 9 following his first major triumph, said: “I will go and have a little look at some places. But I am not going to live there.

“It is not home or where I am from or at. It is only a handful of extra events on top of what I would play anyway.

“You only have to play your minimum of 15 (PGA) events and eight of them are world golf championships and the majors, so I have only got to find seven events to play in.

“It is not that crazily different of a schedule and it allows me, because of my exemptions, to pick and choose the best events around the world and to go and play when I want to play, which is brilliant.”

Masters champion Danny Willett, of England, gives a thumbs up after winning the Masters at Augusta. Picture: AP/Chris Carlson.

Willett is now finally managing to wind down a little following his Masters triumph when he became the first European winner since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999 to win the crown jewel of golf.

The iconic green jacket that was present when he met with the press at Rotherham GC, where he learned his golfing trade, will serve as a permanent reminder of that and he will return to the United States for competitive action at the self-styled “fifth major” on May 12 – the Players Championship at Sawgrass in Florida.

With the three other majors, the small matter of a summer Olympics in Rio and the Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota in the autumn also on the itinerary, it promises to be a hectic and demanding time for Willett.

But after breaking into the elite, focus has now turned to thoughts of Willett potentially evolving the ‘big three’ of golf into ‘the big four’ alongside Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

However, the 28-year-old, just as he did so magnificently on that final day at Augusta, refuses to get carried away.

He said: “You just want to keep moving forward. But when you get to the top side of the rankings, there are huge jumps.

“That you win a major championship and only jump three spots in the rankings seems a bit bonkers, but it is because the gaps at the top are pretty big.

“I am still six points behind world No 1, which if you break it down is three majors – that is a hell of a long way behind.

“It is a case of keep getting better and keep chipping off little bits week by week and see if you can keep clawing it ever closer and, hopefully, at some point soon, we will get somewhere near.”

Team Willett all played their part in their man’s remarkable three-shot victory in Augusta, as he was the first to acknowledge.

His debt to those who helped him along the way, from his early days at Birley Wood GC in Sheffield and later at Rotherham is a considerable one.

Willett hopes his own exploits can serve as an inspiration to other youngsters across clubs in the White Rose aspiring to similar greatness at clubs across the county.

“It is good just to go out and show that anyone can do it, really,” he added.

“I do remember those long hours at Rotherham. When it has been chucking down with rain and you play a few holes and come back in and play a few more balls because you didn’t hit them very good and your mum is there waiting in the car beeping her horn as she wants to get back and you are still hitting balls or putting.

“It is what you do it for. Me and the lads having chipping comps around the putting green or getting told off for taking divots up on the 18th.

“You draw back on those days because they were brilliant and, ultimately, helped me do what I have done.”