Danny Willett hasn’t won since his surprise 2016 Masters victory. His recent form has been horrendous, missing the cut or withdrawing in eight of his last 13 starts.
He’s changed swing coaches, battled injury, and admits in a blog post for the European Tour there have been times since winning the green jacket that he “just didn’t want to play golf.”
Here’s are a few of the more interesting morsels from Willett’s blog.
On the aftermath of his Masters win…
“What’s funny is that we, as golfers, spend so much time practicing for those moments, working on our swings, those chip shots, pressure putts, how to deal with being in contention mentally but no one ever really prepares you for what happens next, after you achieve greatness like that. Ultimately I’ll be able to look back on that day and be thankful for all that it has given me but it’s not always easier dealing with the aftermath.”
“After the Masters, every time I went to the range, every time I was on a putting green or in a practice round, there were cameras on you and everything’s being filmed and recorded. That magnifies everything to the nth degree.”
“People that know me, know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and if I’m having a bad day on the course, I’ll show it and if I’m playing well and everything’s great in the world, you can tell. That’s just who I am. When the spotlight was on me constantly, I felt I had to dull that side of me down a little. It’s much harder to show some of that emotion, good or bad, when everyone’s eyes are on you.”
On low points…
“There’s been quite a few low points over the last few months. At the end of 2016 I was in contention in the Race to Dubai and I just didn’t want to play golf. Think about that. It’s utterly ridiculous.”
On remembering his Masters win often…
“After Augusta, I began opening up to friends and people around me and trying to take a look at what I could do to improve. It wouldn’t be an easy few months but I still look back on that dinner and tell myself there was a reason I had a name card and a place at that table. I had earned an invitation and I often find myself remembering that meal.”
“I’d find myself watching YouTube videos. The number of times I’ve watched clips of my final round at Augusta is ridiculous.”
On his ailing back…
“I had to pull out of a couple of events and it became a problem. It was annoying as working out didn’t hurt it, drills didn’t hurt it but firing into the ball at full speed and just being a little off could cause a lot of pain.”
“It ended up taking over my game as I’d be taking painkillers in the morning after waking up in pain, getting an hour of physio before each round, playing the round with a swing that hurt, then needing an hour of physio after the round. I was just knackered.”
On the nature of professional tournament golf..
“Golf is a strange sport. When you’re playing well, it seems very easy but when you’re struggling it feels like all the time on the range makes no difference out on the course. That can be a hard challenge to deal with mentally, especially when you’re traveling week-to-week trying to find that form against some of the best players and toughest courses in the world.
“That being said I’m very lucky to have friends and family off the course that do what they can to keep my on that path to success and help put things in perspective.”
Willet’s entire blog post is more than worth a read. Check it out here.
Few players are truly candid about the ups and downs of the professional game. Willett, going from relative obscurity (in the U.S. at least) to Masters winner, then failing win in the 18 months since is an extreme case.
Certainly, plenty of critics will cite his privilege as a tour pro and suggest he should never complain. Many will question his underlying desire and hammer him for admitting there were times he didn’t want to play golf.
Here’s the thing: Willett is not alone in this experience. Don’t you think Shaun Micheel experienced something similar? Ben Curtis? Willett is singular in having the courage to be transparent about his struggles as he continues his effort to improve and follow up his Masters win.
You’ve gotta root for him to do just that.