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Willett driving towards World No.1 aim

By Phil Casey

Published 09/02/2016

Prize guy: Danny Willett with his Dubai Desert Classic title
Prize guy: Danny Willett with his Dubai Desert Classic title

When Danny Willett said in November that his ultimate goal was to become World No.1, the news was somewhat lost in the background of his battle with Rory McIlroy to end 2015 as European No.1.

And it would also be fair to say that reaching top spot looked a long way off given the way Jordan Spieth had won The Masters and US Open, Jason Day's record total in winning the US PGA Championship and the return to fitness of Northern Irishman McIlroy in time to win the Race to Dubai for the third time in four years.

But it also cannot be denied that Englishman Willett keeps moving closer and closer to achieving his dream, with his latest European Tour title in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic lifting him to a career-high 13th in the rankings.

"It's taken me a lot longer to get to where I am in the world than I was hoping," admitted Willett, who would have been 12th in the rankings if not for Hideki Matsuyama's play-off victory over Rickie Fowler in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, after his latest title success.

"But the ultimate goal is to get to World No,1, otherwise I wouldn't be playing this game."

Willett certainly has the credentials after enjoying a stellar amateur career which included beating McIlroy in the first round of the Amateur Championship, winning the English Amateur title and playing alongside McIlroy -and Dubai runner-up Andy Sullivan - in the 2007 Walker Cup.

The 28-year-old turned professional in 2008 and gained his card via the qualifying school the same year.

It was not until 2012, however, that he claimed his first professional triumph, defeating Marcus Fraser in a play-off for the BMW International Open crown.

An ongoing back injury contributed to winless campaigns in the next two years before Willett took his game to another level with victories in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and Omega European Masters, as well as a share of sixth place in The Open at St Andrews.

Whether the former World No.1 amateur can achieve the same distinction in the professional game remains to be seen, but the son of a Sheffield vicar is certainly moving in the right direction.

Belfast Telegraph

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