Spotlight back on Willett after 'pitch black' times

Carnoustie (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Danny Willett admitted the dramatic slump that followed the exhilaration of winning the 2016 Masters plunged him into times that were "pitch black".

However, the 30-year-old Englishman's recent re-emergence from the doldrums -- he missed the cut in eight of his first 10 tournaments this season -- continued on Thursday with a two-under-par 69 in the first round of the British Open.

Willett, who has had help from compatriot Justin Rose's coach Sean Foley to adapt his game because of a chronic back condition, dropped two shots on the demanding final two holes.

However, while annoyed at that rather sour finish, the round built on his recent run which saw him finish eighth in the Italian Open and sixth in the Irish Open.

At least it has put a smile back on his face -- his exuberant celebrations as he was jumped on by his caddie when he won the Masters after Jordan Spieth imploded on the inward nine have seemed an age ago.

"Pitch black," admitted the disarmingly honest Willett when asked about how bad things had become.

"No, it wasn't good for a while, but that's kind of the situation we were in, and we're fighting, swinging it a little bit on and off, and the body being really uncooperative."

Willett, who said earlier this week that at one point he had considered calling it a day, blamed the wear and tear of incessant travelling as one of the banes of the job.

"Unfortunately in this game, trying to travel and play 26 weeks around the world, travelling a countless amount of air miles isn't good for the body I don't think for anybody," he said.

"It wasn't fun getting on the plane and wondering if you were actually going to be able to play the Open on Thursday. So not a nice place to be."

- 'You still get annoyed' -

Willett, whose Masters victory climaxed a dream week for him as his wife Nicole gave birth to their first child a few days before his triumph, believes the darkest days are now a thing of the past.

"I'm pretty hopeful we'll never be in as dark a place as we were," he said.

"But by the same token, this is a strange old game. You get ebbs and flows and hit a low point, but I've really enjoyed golf the last six, seven weeks.

"Even getting the clubs out and going to play at home without having to do two hours of warm-up and go see the physio."

Willett is seeking to make his first cut in the majors this season having failed to play the weekend at either the Masters or the US Open.

He said that he should be delighted with his 69 given his dreadful times, but acknowledged it was the curse of the golfer never to be satisfied.

"Yeah, perspective is good, but you still get annoyed," said Willett.

"As perfect as we try and be, yeah, you should remember the times that were terrible and go, well, that's not too bad.

"Unfortunately, we're not like that.

"We just keep trying to move forward and keep trying to strive for better things. Yeah, it's definitely nice to be stood here after shooting a relatively stress-free 69."