Willett produces another Masters surprise in comeback from surgery

April 12, 2024 12:15 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Danny Willett winning the Masters in 2016 provided one of golf’s major surprises, but the Briton’s four-under 68 in the first round at Augusta National may well be an even bigger one.

Willett, who underwent shoulder surgery last September and was expected to be out of action for 12-18 months, made a miraculous return, mixing seven birdies with three bogeys to sit three back of clubhouse leader Bryson DeChambeau when first round play was halted due to darkness.

“It’s unexpected, isn’t it?,” beamed Willett. “I had no idea what to expect, so it’s obviously always nice to come in having shot a decent score, and just give yourself that little bit of confidence inside and hopefully have a nice few more days.”

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Willett said he did not make the decision to tee it up at Augusta until Sunday but decided it was worth the risk.

“I played Sunday with a friend of mine, and I played alright,” said Willett. A lot of it was just getting used to the visuals again of the golf course.

“After the Augusta National Women’s it was firm, it was fast, and I played alright, so I was like, you know what, there’s a sniff.

“We played 27 (holes), woke up the next day, no pain, no nothing, walked it, and that was kind of like, alright – even if you play bad I think it’s still worthwhile taking the risk.”

Playing his first event since the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year, the 36-year-old Englishman reached the turn at three under before two bogeys over his next five holes sent him sliding down the leaderboard.

He then wrapped up his day in spectacular style collecting three birdies over the final four holes, including capping his round by rolling in a 17-footer at the 18th.

“You make a couple of birdies and your mind starts thinking, alright, I can do it,” said Willett. “It was nice to keep chilled out.

“It was playing tough, probably really made us concentrate that little bit more.”