Golf: Danny Willett - who is the Yorkshireman who won the 2016 Masters?

Danny Willett of England celebrates winning the 2016 Masters Tournament, on April 10, 2016.
Danny Willett of England celebrates winning the 2016 Masters Tournament, on April 10, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (The Guardian) - In the closing stages of the 2016 Masters at Augusta, the question on lips of many sports fans was: "Who is Danny Willett?"

But that was perhaps a little unfair given that the 28-year-old Sheffield-born champion sits at 11 in the current world rankings and was considered a genuine chance by pundits and bookies leading into the first day of play at Augusta.

Willett, a Yorkshireman, is one of four brothers born to a Church of England vicar and a mathematics teacher. He left school at 16 and then quit a local college course to play golf for Jacksonville State University in Florida.

 

His path to this week's Masters was complicated by the imminent arrival of his and wife Nicole's first child, due during the four-day major. Thankfully for Willett's chances, son Zachariah arrived on March 30.

Willett had previously claimed he would skip the tournament to attend the birth if circumstances demanded. "Obviously Nic's due that week," Willett said , "so all depends on how our little man is fairing, if he fancies coming out early on, it would be great, but if not, I won't be playing."

Before turning pro, Willett became the number one ranked amateur in the world in March 2008 and along the way won the English Amateur Championship in 2007.

He turned professional in May 2008 and in 2012, while ranked 204th in the world, won his first European tour title at the BMW International Open at Cologne .

A team-mate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup - the amateur version of the Ryder Cup played between Europe and the US - Willett had feared the Cologne breakthrough was going to be his 20th top-10 finish without victory when he threw away a three-stroke lead but eventually edged past Marcus Fraser.

Willett also created a splash at the 2015 British Open, trailing American Dustin Johnson by a single stroke leading into the final round before sliding down the leaderboard at St Andrews. He finally tied for sixth, his best result at a major tournament until his charge this week.

Heading into this week's tournament Willett had accumulated US$677,265 (S$927,600) in PGA Tour prize money, which is dwarfed by the US$1.8m cheque he'll receive for his efforts at Augusta.