Debutant Danny willing Europe to Ryder Cup success
Danny Willett is confident his rookie status will not prevent him from taking to Ryder Cup life and helping Europe retain the trophy when the action begins in Hazeltine National in three weeks’ time.
The Englishman was an automatic qualifier for Darren Clarke’s side, helped by his outstanding performance at Augusta National in winning a maiden Major Championship at this year’s Masters Tournament, and flies to Minnesota as the current leader of the Race to Dubai.
Willett will be hoping for double celebrations as his 29th birthday falls on October 3, the day after this year’s tournament concludes, though he acknowledges victory against a fired-up American team will not be easy, with five fellow debutants lining up in European ranks.
“It is going to be amazing,” he said. “I had dinner with a few of the older players and the rookies at the Players Championship, and we got to talk a bit about it.
“I’m going to be a rookie but I will probably still be in the top ten of the world, so it is a strange one given where I’ve come from and burst onto the scene quite a bit in the last 18 months.
“I will probably need a couple of the guys to put an arm round my shoulder and talk me through how nerve-wracking things are going to be and all the pressure that goes on, but I am confident in my own abilities.
“I’ve played against a lot of the Americans on the PGA Tour and in the WGC-Dell Match Play and beaten them, so there’s no reason why I can’t take those experiences with me, even though I’m a rookie, and try to put as many points on the board for Darren as possible.”
The American team, led by Davis Love III, have not won golf’s greatest team event since the 2008 contest in Valhalla, and Willett’s fondest Ryder Cup memories are of the three most recent editions – all of them famous successes for Europe.
“I remember watching when Leonard holed the putt at Brookline and everyone ran on the green,” he said. “And I remember Monty’s second shot into 17 when Seve was captain, and trying to coach him through how to hit it.
“But it is really the last three that I have actually properly watched, starting six years ago – not because I had a chance of getting into the team, but because I had just turned pro and I was there or thereabouts.
“They are the ones I have really watched intently and seen the feelings of how it would be to be in that position – the first tee at Celtic Manor with the crowds chanting and cheering, Medinah the same thing and then Gleneagles last time.
“Seeing the guys then that I now play golf with doing those things and making history, it just really makes you want to get out there and play well, and obviously try and keep The Ryder Cup for Europe.”