New master plots route to top

Danny Willett posing in his Green Jacket at his rented house in Augusta, Georgia, a day after winning the Masters on Sunday. He flew home to England to be with his wife Nicole and newborn son Zachariah instead of going on the usual champion's tour of
Danny Willett posing in his Green Jacket at his rented house in Augusta, Georgia, a day after winning the Masters on Sunday. He flew home to England to be with his wife Nicole and newborn son Zachariah instead of going on the usual champion's tour of US talk shows.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He vows not to let success go to his head and is focused on becoming No. 1, making it to Rio

AUGUSTA (Georgia) • Danny Willett flew home last night with a green jacket and a plan to become the world's No. 1 golfer.

The 28-year-old had just became only the second Englishman, after Nick Faldo, to win the US Masters.

He is also targeting the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The top 15 golfers on July 11 will automatically qualify for the Games and his win elevated him to ninth, one place ahead of compatriot Justin Rose.

"There are eight more steps to go," he told the Telegraph. "I have self-belief and I work incredibly hard and my ambition in my own mind has always been to be world No. 1. This obviously gives me more belief that I can do it.

"You strive for perfection every time you practise, every time you play. But to be able to get there you need to win big tournaments, such as the Masters."

While many were left shocked by defending champion Jordan Spieth's collapse at Augusta, Willett was one of the few not surprised by his three-shot victory on Sunday.

His close-knit camp, including caddie Jonathan Smart and manager Chubby Chandler, all know the triumph was life-changing.

"He can be one of the greats of his time," Chandler said. "He can go to No. 1 and will think he can win another Major this year."

His next chance comes at the US Open in June. He is back in the US at the Players Championship at Sawgrass on May 10, and is planning to heed the advice of former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

As the wine flowed at Willett's victory party on Sunday, Ferguson shook his hand and told him that he had lost £8,000 (S$15,420) by backing Spieth.

"You need to know where to put your money," Willett, a Liverpool fan, joked. But the conversation with the man who delivered 28 major trophies during his time at Old Trafford developed into something more serious.

"Fergie had a brilliant piece of advice for me," Willett revealed to the Telegraph. "He said, 'When I was at Manchester United, we never looked back on what we had achieved. We always looked forward. As soon as we won a trophy, it was forgotten about. The next morning, we wake up and try to work hard to win the next trophy.'

"For him to say that puts things back in perspective from a true winner's point of view."

Although he won US$1.8 million (S$2.4 million) and, according to Chandler, is now "set for life", Willett vowed not to let his latest success go to his head.

He plans to buck the trend for European golfers to live permanently in the United States when they join the PGA Tour and will keep his base in Sheffield. He shunned the usual Masters winner's tour of American talk shows to fly home on Monday to be with his wife, Nicole, and new baby, Zachariah.

Still, Willett is set for a new level of attention and rewards. According to Forbes, world No. 3 Rory McIlroy earns about £33 million a year in winnings and endorsements.

Willett's career earnings are modest in comparison. He has raked in £8.7 million on the less lucrative European Tour in his career and won only £475,000 from his previous 22 appearances on the PGA Tour.

But he can also expect sponsors to come calling. He has deals with Callaway Golf Company, Audemars Piguet watches and Saujana Hotels, with Forbes already estimating a £3.5 million hike.

Asked what winning the Masters meant, Chandler quipped: "A lot of cash." He added that Willett would know how many Major titles McIlroy and Spieth had won (four and two respectively).

"He will want to get up there and past them," he said.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'NEW MASTER PLOTS ROUTE TO TOP'. Print Edition | Subscribe