Nedbank: No holding back from Willett

From The European Tour

15_NGC_WillettD_previewNEWDanny Willett has vowed to take on Gary Player Country Club as he attempts to get his season off to the perfect start for the second year running at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

The Englishman won by four shots last term and stayed at the top of The Race to Dubai standings into the summer when he was overtaken by Rory McIlroy who went on to be crowned Europe’s Number One for the third time.

McIlroy’s victory at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai proved to be the difference, with the two men going into the season finale separated by just 1,613 points.

And with Willett’s opening victory acting as the springboard for finishing as Europe’s Number Two, the 28 year old sees no reason to change his approach on his return to Sun City.

“If you want to win you’ve got to take the golf course on,” he said. “If you’re happy with an average result you can play it conservatively and ease your way round, but I think we’ll have the same strategy and try to do something good again.

“The course sets up for people who hit it straight. If you can drive the ball well you’re giving yourself nine irons into greens, which are a lot easier to control than a six or seven iron when you’re hitting into small greens with the wind swirling round.

“So we’ll be trying to be aggressive off the tee at the right times and take it from there.

“There are a few holes where it’s driver or three iron, and you could have a 100 yard difference. Coming into the greens with a wedge or a five iron makes a massive difference, so we said let’s just man up and take on the line which will give us a better birdie chance.

“There were holes where others took iron off the tee and we took driver. The reverse side is that if you don’t drive it well you’re going to make a few big numbers, but in a field of only 30, you’re going to have to shoot some good numbers, looking at the winning scores from previous years. If you settle for par you’re not getting anywhere.

“It’s the first tournament of the 2016 season for me and I’ll be trying to kick-start another good year.

“It was the start of a pretty awesome year. The way I won gave me confidence in my own abilities and my own game, and it took me to a few places I’d not been before, like up there in the Race to Dubai all season and competing in golf tournaments all around the world. It was all set up from the win here.”

Willett’s brilliant 2015 saw him move from 83rd up to 20th in the Official World Golf Rankings and 2016 could prove to be even more eventful with The Ryder Cup and the Olympics on the horizon.

That Top 50 ranking also assures Willett entry to the Major Championships and World Golf Championships, and the Omega European Masters champion is aiming to improve on his tie for sixth at the Open Championship.

“It’s a goal to be competing in WGCs and Majors, and this year we had two top five finishes and another top ten, so out of the eight events I played nicely in a few of them,” he said. “Next year we’ll be trying to push a bit more, because at the end of the day that’s where you want to be competing.”

Those ambitions mean there will be a hectic global schedule for Willett but, with wife Nicole expecting a child and Ryder Cup points on offer to get on Darren Clarke’s team, he will be keeping his focus on The European Tour.

“I spoke to Darren and he wants me to play well in Europe and get on the Ryder Cup team,” he said. “Nic’s pregnant as well so we didn’t want too much travelling.

“So this next year I’ll be knuckling down playing in Europe and trying to get another couple of wins, getting in contention and becoming familiar with being in contention a lot. I want to see how I cope with the pressure of pitching up to events as one of the favourites and expecting to win. It’s going to put a different spin on how I approach things and how I cope with different situations.”


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