Golf: Danny Willett reveals family was targeted for Ryder Cup abuse

Willett looks on during a press conference after being defeated by the US during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Willett looks on during a press conference after being defeated by the US during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup.PHOTO: AFP

ST ANDREWS, United Kingdom (AFP) - Danny Willett has revealed how his wife and parents were victims of the abusive heckling he was subjected to during his Ryder Cup debut last week.

The US Masters champion became public enemy number one for some home supporters after his brother Pete wrote an article severely criticising the behaviour of American golf crowds.

Willett, 29, quickly apologised for his brother's remarks, which included the accusation that US fans were a "braying mob of imbeciles".

But that did not stop Willett from receiving verbal abuse throughout the three-day event at the Hazeltine course in Minnesota and afterwards the Englishman, who did not win a point as the USA beat Europe 17-11, tweeted: "Unfortunately some american fans showed that @P-J-Willett was in fact correct".

Wednesday (Oct 5) saw Willett, speaking at St Andrews ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, reveal the full extent of the abuse he had encountered.

"You've got 150 to 200,000 fans there that love watching golf but unfortunately you've got the odd one or two that don't actually go there to watch golf, which is a shame," he said, while practising on the Old Course at St Andrews, one of three host venues for this week's Alfred Dunhill event in Scotland.

"But I don't think that's ever going to stop. We got a taste of it last week, being in America with the fans and how they push on to help their team win.

"People realise what was said was reflecting on a massively tiny proportion of people that went there. That's just how it is, unfortunately.

"When you're walking round a golf event week to week, everyone's fantastic. You pitch up and play a normal golf event anywhere in the world and the fans are great.

"But I don't think you should be walking round while people are saying things to your parents and saying things to your wife. I don't think that's our sport, that's not what Europe play for, that's not what we do.

"Unfortunately, that happened and unfortunately it put a bit of a downer on what was supposed to be my first good experience of the Ryder Cup."

Willett, however, apologised for the tone of his post-closing ceremony comment when asked how he could sum up the experience of his first appearance in the Ryder Cup.

"S**t," he said. Asked to elaborate, he replied: "Really s**t."

Willett tried to explain those comments on Wednesday by saying: "It's difficult when you have a press conference straight afterwards as the emotion is running high.

"It has sunk in a bit more now."

Willett did not feature in the Friday morning foursomes and was hammered 5&4 by Brooks Koepka in Sunday's singles.

He was also beaten in the Friday fourballs by Koepka and Brandt Snedeker alongside Martin Kaymer, while Willett and Lee Westwood lost by one hole to JB Holmes and Ryan Moore in Saturday's fourballs.