6 things to know about Danny Willett
July 17, 2015
By Helen Ross , PGATOUR.COM
- July 17, 2015
- Danny Willett has shot 66-69 in the first two rounds of The Open Championship. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Danny Willett, who owned a two-stroke lead when he finished his second round at the 144th Open Championship, is hardly a household name in the United States. The 27-year-old Englishman is quietly making a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic, though, and this week at the Old Course could become a watershed moment for him.
As the action unfolds this weekend at St. Andrews, PGATOUR.COM gives you six things you need to know about Willett.
1. He's well aware that no Yorkshireman has ever won The Open Championship.
Willett was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His mother is a math teacher and his father a vicar in the Church of England.
2. He gravitated toward golf because it was a sport he could beat his older brothers in.
Although Willett recently fulfilled a life-long dream of sky-diving, his two older brothers helped him gain a more grounded interest in golf. "I had to find some sport that I could beat them in," he once told Derek Lawrenson of the Mail on Sunday. "It's funny when golf gets its hooks into you. I would practice for hours on my own. It takes over your childhood."
3. His golf game reached another level when he played at Jacksonville State.
Willett was a good student but he only lasted one month in at a university in Great Britain. A year later, though, when Willett was 17, he came to the United States to play golf at Jacksonville (Alabama) State where he was named the Ohio Valley Conference's top freshman in 2006 and was medalist at the league tournament the following year. "It teaches you a lot of things, America," Willett said. "I think a few guys hate it because they've got moms and dads there getting them up in the morning, making them this, doing them that. I've been brought up a little bit different to that. It was a fantastic experience. ... You have to discipline yourself, you are in the gym six times week, you're training, practicing, getting ready for the tournaments which are pretty stressful I'd say in college golf. It's five, six-man teams, every score to count in the NCAAs and stuff. It's a good standard of golf."
4. He beat Rory McIlroy in the 2007 British Amateur.
He quickly rose up the amateur ranks and was eventually ranked No. 1 in March 2008. Willett really made his presence known on the global stage when he beat Rory McIlroy in the 2007 British Amateur, playing his first six holes 5 under and winning 2 and 1. He played with McIlroy on the Walker Cup team later that year. Willett credits a lot of his success to his college days because he came back "bigger, stronger, a little bit more disciplined in everything I did, and that kind of set up the amateur career that I had for the next year and a half."
5. He has won two titles on the European Tour.
Willett turned pro in 2009 and earned his European Tour card after surviving all three stages of qualifying school. He posted eight top-10s as a rookie and has gone on to win two European Tour events, including the Nedbank Golf Challenge earlier this year. Willett, who has learned to manage a recurring lower back injury, came into The Open Championship ranked 39th in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 2 in the Race to Dubai.
6. He's a special temporary member of the PGA TOUR.
He earned enough FedExCup points to qualify when he finished third at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play. Among the players he beat at Harding Park? Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed and Ryan Moore before losing to Gary Woodland in the semifinals. He also beat Jim Furyk in the consolation match. Willett currently has 331 non-member FedExCup points and needs to finish among the top 125 at the end of the season to get his full playing privileges for 2016. That threshhold is currently 367 points.