CHASKA (Minnesota) • Danny Willett fears he has become a "target" for American fans at his maiden Ryder Cup, with the Masters champion also conceding his experience has been tarnished and his focus hard to maintain.
A midweek magazine column by his brother included a string of offensive comments towards American golf fans.
In the wake of the controversy, Willett was omitted from the European side for yesterday's opening set of matches.
He had been expected to partner Lee Westwood in the foursomes. Instead, another rookie, Thomas Pieters, was given that place in the final match of four where they were to have played Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Peter Willett's article triggered immediate anger from Darren Clarke, Europe's captain, and forced Danny to offer his remorse in person to Davis Love III, who is the US captain.
"It's been pretty tricky for me to get back on and fully focus these last few hours," Willett admitted. "That's been the toughest thing. What was said was said and there's no going back.
"Obviously, coming to America, you're already a bit of a target with the European team, the 12 guys. And yeah, it kind of centred the attention a bit more upon myself.
"I was obviously disappointed in what he wrote and it's put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup.
"It's not been too bad with the fans. There are a few shouts out there but you can expect that.
"You don't mind the odd bit of heckling but hope it doesn't go too far."
A lavish opening ceremony on Thursday - including tributes to the late legend Arnold Palmer from Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus - ended with the captains announcing their first four pairings.
But the absence of Willett was the inevitable talking point.
Willett said that his brother's article in National Club Golfer - which also dubbed American spectators as "fat, stupid classless b******s" - was "incredibly ill-timed" but added: "Family's family - he's still my brother."
His brother has apologised to Willett, although he appears to be standing by his diatribe.
World No. 8 Patrick Reed gave an American view on the matter, saying: "I hope for the best for Danny and his family and hope they actually enjoy the week and that our fans don't just completely annihilate them."
But for the Europe team, it has been a disastrous public relations incident.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES
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