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Willett has reason to be positive after an upswing in his fortunes

By Phil Casey

Danny Willett admits his dark times were "pitch black", but the former Masters champion is continuing to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Willett reached a career high of ninth in the world after claiming his first Major at Augusta in 2016, but had slumped outside the top 450 earlier this season after injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in the French Open was his ninth in 12 events, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back to finish sixth in the Irish Open and 19th in last week's Scottish Open at Gullane.

And that upward trend continued with an opening 69 in The Open at Carnoustie, a first sub-par round at a Major since the 2016 Masters which threatened to be even better when the former Ryder Cup player reached four under with five to play.

"That was good and we had a lot of 12, 15 footers as well that just slid by," said Willett, who dropped shots on the 17th and 18th. "Could have been a really, really nice knock, but it wasn't.

"It's definitely nice to be stood here after shooting a relatively stress-free 69. You look at the number as a whole and not how we finish or how we start. It's a number in the 60s and we've had a few the past couple of months.

"I'm pretty hopeful we'll never be in as dark a place as we were. It was pitch black. But this is a strange odd 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 felt pretty good. That kind of leads you to work a little bit harder.

"And the little sessions you're able to do for a bit longer because your body is better and just enables you to gain a little more than you ordinarily would."

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