Former Masters champion Danny Willett hailed a “fairytale” first European Tour victory on home soil after overcoming Spain’s Jon Rahm in a final-round duel at the BMW PGA Championship.
Sheffield’s Willett carded a closing 67 at Wentworth to finish 20 under par, three shots ahead of fellow overnight leader Rahm, with South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout a shot further back.
Americans Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed finished joint fourth on 15 under par, with Scotland’s Richie Ramsay securing his playing rights for next season thanks to a tie for sixth alongside Rafa Cabrera Bello on 13 under.
After missing the cut at Wentworth last May, Willett was ranked 462nd in the world as he struggled with a loss of form precipitated by a number of injuries. He will be just outside the top 30 when the rankings are updated on Monday and top of the Ryder Cup qualifying standings after the first event.
“There were some dark places and we were in a bit of turmoil,” Willett admitted. “We have reworked everything with everyone at home helping out and it’s extra special when you are then able to produce special things.
“This week has been one of those fairytales to win on home soil. I’ve been close at the Open and had a couple of good chances here before and the crowd weren’t going to let me throw it away.
“That’s now my seventh win on Tour and every single time I’ve won they have been pretty stellar events against pretty stellar fields.”
Four birdies in the first 10 holes gave Willett a two-shot lead which he looked set to surrender on the 11th, where he followed a wild drive by hitting a tree with his recovery shot and then gouging his third shot out of the heather into a bunker. Willett hurt his right wrist in the process and later took painkillers on the course but, after finding the green with his fourth, holed from 40 feet to drop just one shot.
Rahm bogeyed the 12th after misjudging his pitch to the green and seeing the ball roll back towards him, but the Ryder Cup star bounced back immediately to birdie the next.
But Willett’s birdie on the 17th effectively sealed victory and any lingering doubt about the result was removed when Rahm found the water short of the green with his approach.