Willett back in the winners circle with victory in Dubai


Danny Willett earned his first win since the Masters with a two-shot victory at the DP World Tour Championships on Sunday

Danny Willett birdied three of his final five holes to win the European Tour's season-finale in Dubai over Patrick Reed and Matt Wallace as Francesco Molinari finished a stellar season with the Race to Dubai crown.

The win comes a staggering 953 days since Willett famously triumphed at Augusta National in 2016 to win The Masters, and he was quick to admit it was this win that would go down as one of his most memorable. 

"Winning's a rarity on Tour, really," Willett said. "I'm pleased to have won the tournaments that I've won over the last few years. I've won some pretty big ones, and obviously Augusta is always going to be special.

"But this, coming back after everything that's happened, this year, really, is going to go down in the history books for myself as one of the most pleasing.

"It's been a lot of hard work. It's been tough. I'm just massively proud of myself and everyone that's been around me."

As Willett admitted, it's not been a smooth journey since he claimed the green jacket and moved inside the World's top 10. He's struggled with multiple injury set-backs, loss of form, a split with his long-time caddie and earlier this year had fallen as far as 462nd in the rankings. He ended up feeling like he didn't even want to play. 

"...probably the beginning of -- back end of '16, beginning of '17, we picked up a couple of bad injuries, and we were right in prime position to win The Race to Dubai, and the golf game wasn't in a good place and I didn't really want to play golf," Willett said as he reflected on the hardest times. 

"Even though it was great tournaments to be able to compete in and win and there was some great things going on in the golfing world, but I wasn't in a position to where I was enjoying what I was doing, and I was in pain.

"You know, kind of that beginning of '17 was a really tough time and then joining the US PGA Tour in '17, and things have been a lot better since."

He credited a switch to coach Sean Foley last August as part of the reason for for the improvement, which has seen him notch up three top 10s and now his sixth European Tour victory this year. 

"Pretty quickly me and Foles, I knew the stuff was going to be good. The last kind of six, seven, eight months, I've really taken big strides in what we've been doing because I've been pain-free and been able to work harder.

Having begun the day in a share of the lead with current Masters champion Patrick Reed, Willett quickly increased his advantage thanks to a bogey on the first from Reed and an unlikely length double-breaking eagle putt on the second to move ahead by three. 

A birdie on the seventh was followed by another dropped shot from Reed to give him a comfortable cushion at the turn, but with Wallace climbing the leaderboard, it was Willett who then began to make mistakes. 

With bogeys on the 10th and 12th holes Willett soon found himself back in a share of the lead with Wallace and just one shot clear of Reed, but he soon rebounded with back-to-back birdies from the 14th to move back in front. 

A final birdie of the day came on the 17th, and luck would be on his side for the final hole of the day. Willett leaked his tee-shot right on the 18th but he fortunately came up just short of the water and surrounding rocks before going on to make par, guaranteeing a 68 and his first win in two and a half years. 

"You never quite know when a win is around the corner and with all the things that have happened, I was never quite sure if it was going to happen again," Willett said. 

"To happen here at the end of year, we've battled long and hard through this season to come out at the end, regardless of what happened today, a better person and a better athlete. It's a special place.

"It's been a hell of a lot of work and it's just nice to be back."

Playing partner Reed, who made five birdies over the back nine, holed from 12 feet for a final gain at the last for a share of second place with three-time winner this season Matt Wallce - with Reed holing from 12 feet for birdie at the last to earn a share of second with Wallace.

Defending champion  Jon Rahm finished in third at 14-under-par alongside fellow Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and South Africa's Dean Burmester, while Race to Dubai champion Francesco Molinari needed only a spot in joint 26th place to claim the season-long title race.