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Ken Borland

Willett deserves his ‘ridiculous’ Sun City cash-in

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Ken

Danny Willett called it a “ridiculous” amount of money as he cashed in to the tune of $1.25 million by winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday, but his sensational final round of 66 to head the elite 30-man field by four strokes deserved no less.

It is a triumph the 27-year-old will no doubt cherish, being just his second, but he also maintains that one of the most lucrative tournaments on the European Tour is extremely special in its own right.

“It’s a ridiculous amount of money to win, but a week like this won’t be matched anywhere, not even on the PGA Tour. It’s great to win against a very good field, because it says I’m improving and I can compete against the best,” Willett said.

The win takes the former amateur world number one into the top 60 on the world professional rankings and means a definite place in the Majors is beckoning, never mind the Ryder Cup points earned by one of Europe’s rising stars.

It was a win based on his aggression off the tee and his deft touch around and on the greens.

“We [he shared the credit with caddy John Smart] had a good game-plan, this course is visually intimidating off the tee, but we wanted to be aggressive and take it on, I trusted my driver. We would take on shots where others would lay back.

“I also felt comfortable on the greens, they remind me of home without much grain on them. The grass around the greens is also not as sticky as elsewhere, it feels similar to home,” Willett said.

With that positive attitude, he perhaps caught the other Englishmen in the final three-ball napping and Luke Donald and Ross Fisher were still trying to get into their rounds by the time Willett had roared to three birdies in the first five holes.

“I hit a lot of driver on the first few holes where a lot of other golfers would hit irons. It meant I had a five-iron into two, a nine-iron into three, where the others are hitting five or six-irons into narrow greens. There was no hanging back for me,” Willett said.

Donald endured a frustrating day on his 37th birthday with a one-over-par 73, but the overnight leader had the good grace to rave about Willett’s performance.

“I could have played a bit better but I still would have had to shoot five‑under just to tie with Danny.  He played really focused golf today and hats off, he’s a deserved winner.

“He just had a red‑hot putter, didn’t seem to miss and did everything really well. He just drove it amazingly well around here, which is a very tough, tight golf course. There’s a lot of trouble, and every time when the pressure is on, he hit it down the middle,” Donald said.

Willett had reason to be smug as he was barely challenged in the final round, but he admitted that he still felt the pressure.

“It was always comfortable enough, but you still put pressure on yourself, you’re saying ‘well I can only throw this away from here’. Three-putting on nine after I hit two good shots in gave me a kick up the backside and it was a good one to win … “ he said.

He was worth it all the way, particularly on the weekend when he shot 65-66, and the richness of the event means he now has a sizeable head-start on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

“It’s obviously a real boost, I’ll be leading the Order of Merit and hopefully the other wins will come along the way,” Willett said.

The quality of his play suggests that win may even come next weekend at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.


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