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Willett is firing again as Rory just makes cut

 

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy

By Phil Casey

Sixteen months after finding the BMW PGA Championship a doubly painful experience, Danny Willett claimed a share of the halfway lead with Spain's Jon Rahm at Wentworth.

Willett covered the front nine of the West Course in just 29 shots for the second time in four years on his way to a superb 65 to join Rahm on 11 under par, the Ryder Cup star making an eagle on the 18th to add a 67 to his opening 66.

World number four Justin Rose, who had been doubtful with a knee injury suffered on his manager's stag do, was two shots off the lead alongside Henrik Stenson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, while Rory McIlroy made the cut with nothing to spare after a 69.

After missing the cut at Wentworth last May Willett was ranked 462nd in the world, but he finished eighth in the Italian Open the following week and finished the year in style by winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, his first victory since the 2016 Masters.

"I was playing well here last year but I had a vasectomy four days before so I don't think that helped," Willett revealed. "I'm not going to lie to you, it was a relatively painful two days of walking."

The pain was compounded by Willett struggling with the effect that numerous injury problems had had on his game and the 31-year-old from Sheffield admitted he found it hard to interact with the fans at the time.

"You're really trying to smile and put a brave face on, but the truth is I wasn't enjoying it and I wasn't playing well," he added. "It is embarrassing, they come and pay money for a ticket, not necessarily to see me play golf, but they want to see good golf and at times I wasn't playing it.

"I wouldn't say I'm back to my best. We're still working on the moves and there's still shots in there that I don't like. I'm just in a much better place with everything.

Rose insisted he had not been the worse for wear when he injured his left knee in the south of France, adding: "I just slipped on a wet surface. Honest truth is, half an hour of being there, not even a beer in hand, can't even blame it on that. We were having a swim and I slipped on the edge, gone in, my foot's got caught."

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