Thursday, May 20, 2010

Danny Boy - The Wonder of Willett

Rory McIlroy has left Danny Willett trailing in his wake since they were team-mates at the 2007 Walker Cup - but on Thursday at Wentworth it was different. Very different.
McIlroy, back playing in Europe after his incredible first PGA Tour win earlier this month, managed only a three-over-par 74 at the start of the BMW PGA Championship.
Willett, on the other hand, marked his debut in the European Tour's star-studded showpiece event with a nine-birdie, six-under-par 65 to set the clubhouse target.
This on a day when world number three Lee Westwood and defending champion Paul Casey shot 70s, Padraig Harrington 71, three-time winner Colin Montgomerie a 73 and Ian Poulter an error-strewn 78.
As for Ernie Els, the man whose redesign of the par-five 18th with club owner Richard Caring has caused such a stir, he was among those who went in the controversial new ditch in front of the green.
Els was joint leader at the time - Willett had still to birdie the last three holes - but despite taking a bogey six and throwing a second ball into the water in annoyance, the South African soon realised a 69 had kept his title hopes very much alive.
Asked to describe Willett, a 22-year-old vicar's son from Sheffield, McIlroy replied: "Confident, bouncy - and a good lad."
Both were ranked number one in the world for a spell as amateurs, but now 119 places separate them as professionals, with McIlroy ninth and Willett 128th.
The Northern Irishman, one year younger than Willett, has won on both sides of the Atlantic, while Willett has yet to register a top-three finish.
This would be some week to change that. First prize is over £637,000 and it comes with a five-year European Tour exemption, plus a place in July's Open at St Andrews.



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