It's not been an easy ride for Danny Willett after he won the 2016 Masters, and in a candid blog he reveals what it's really been like over the last year and a half
Willett achieved a dream only few golfers can boast - winning the Masters at Augusta and becoming the first Brit in 20 years to claim that title. But since then, he's dropped from World No.9 to World. 67, struggled with a back injury, split with both his caddie and coach, and he admitted it's been a tough journey that made him stop wanting to play.
In a blog he wrote for the European Tour's website, Willett spoke openly and honestly about the struggle of being on top to feeling like you couldn't do anything write, admitting that nobody prepares you for what happens next.
Exert below taken from www.europeantour.com
"There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about winning the Masters."
I look back at Augusta last year, how everything came together, and it was the climax of two years of very good golf. I had won twice in the run up to the Masters and got myself into the top 15 in the world and had a lot of confidence by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around.
I think about nearly every shot that week. I remember how I felt at each point throughout the week. It’s amazing how you get the same feelings on weeks when you win or do well. Clearly it’s not easy to replicate that feeling but once you’ve had them, you’ll let them go and that week in April was unforgettable to say the least.
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.
Willett on struggling with the aftermath and performing under the spotlight
Before Augusta I was a good, but 'normal' Tour pro. I was able to go about my business during the week, getting a practice round in, do my work and just prepare quietly for each week. 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.
Working hard doesn't always mean results
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.
I had entered the HSBC Champions in China, Turkey, Nedbank and Dubai - four of the biggest tournaments of the year - and I didn't want to play. I just didn't feel good enough to compete. People don't realise just how golfers' schedules are created and you often commit to events months ahead of time, when you're playing well, then turn up six months later as a completely different golfer.
The truth is very few people know the sacrifices I make to try and be the best golfer I can be. They don't know that I'll get up at 5am to get some practice in or hit the gym, before my son wakes up at 6.30am and I need to help my wife with him. They don't know that I'm still working my nuts off in the gym and on the range only to go out and shoot a 75.
They think I should be able to shoot 72 just showing up for my tee time in the afternoon but it's not that easy and there's so much that goes on, behind the scenes, to get you to that first tee. It's often easy just to rank or rate a player's round based on the score they shoot but that's not always how players view their craft.
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.
On splitting with his caddie
My split with Jonny obviously wasn't how we would have wanted it to happen. We were good friends and it was just natural that me not playing well was going to put stress on things. He knew I was working my tail off and I knew he was doing the same but a couple of bad breaks and some bad form and it's easy to let that tension seep into your professional relationship. I've spoken to him a few times since and he's got a good job now, sharing caddie duties with Zak working for Branden Grace and I think he'll do really well. He's a great caddie.
Where he goes from here
Through everything over the last couple of years, the good and bad, my family have been amazing.
I know I've achieved something that 99 percent of players will never get to experience but there is still a lot I want to do. I've never won the Race to Dubai having come close twice. That's something I want to do. But ultimately, I want to know that every day I spent working on this game I was working to get better and never gave up.
It's not easy but that's golf and that's why I love it. I've had a strained relationship with it in recent months and there were times I felt I was falling out of love with the game but at the end of the day I'll never stop loving this game and I won't, let a few poor results stop me from working to get better.
Ultimately, I'm a husband, I'm a father (I have another kid coming in December) and I have a Green Jacket hanging up at home. I'm pretty lucky and I never forget that.