Danny Willett at the Masters is like a kid in a chocolate factory

Danny Willett
Danny Willett
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“The best way I can describe it is like Willy Wonka when you get that golden ticket and you know for certain that you’re in.”

For Danny Willett, the golden ticket was his ceremonial invitation to compete in the Masters for the first time, something which dropped through his door in January after ending 2014 at a new height of 50th in the world.

It was the equivalent of finding the final ticket on the last day of the competition. And on Thursday, he will step through the gates into the proverbial Wonka’s factory when he tees off at the Augusta National in Georgia.

“The week is going to be a pretty cool experience,” the Sheffield golfer said.

“It’s so hard to get in so I’ve always thought it would be cool to get there and compete.

“There’s the tradition side of things, from getting a proper invite to playing the par three competition on the Wednesday.

“And then there’s the tradition of every time you play the 16th in a practice round of trying to skim the ball across the water.

“There’s all sorts of stuff like that. I can’t wait.

“Getting that invitation, it’s just the start. Where you might only arrange things the week before a normal tournament but with this you can’t wait to organise things.

“I was booking flights, hotels and everything three or four months in advance.

“You have your checklists of what you want to do in your career. Unfortunately it’s taken me a long time to get into it. Finally, I’ve ticked it off.”

The Masters is consistently portrayed as golf’s ‘special/ Major championship. Steeped in history and great drama, played out in a gloriously rich setting of lush green grass and colourful flowerbeds.

Augusta’s status as the home of the Masters means the course is one of the best known in the world. While few get the opportunity to play it, millions feel as though they have with years of watching the event on television.

For Willett, the par three 12th holds a particular fascination, albeit a somewhat morbid one.

He said: “It’s a relatively short par three that people always seem to make a hash of.

“Hopefully we don’t.

“The first tee shot at any event, whether it’s your thousandth time there or your first, is always a bit nerve wracking. It’s going to be pretty cool at the Masters.

“The 18th tee shot on TV looks to be a lot tighter than I hope it is.”

Just three men have done what Willett will attempt to do this week - win the Masters at their first attempt. Two of those did it in the first two years of the competition’s history and it has been 36 years since it was last achieved.

The 27-year-old does subscribe to the long held theory that Augusta is a course you get better at the more you play.

Yet he feels he may just have the game to claim the green jacket on Sunday evening.

He said: “I think it very well could suit me.

“I can picture a few holes off the top of my head. I know a lot of them look a lot more severe than they actually are from talking to people.

“Very different people have won it. Get it when it’s cold and you take out the fact you can’t hit par fives in two so it becomes a completely different course. Get it nice and hot where the ball goes a long way and it brings different players in.

“It’s been a very diverse range of people that have won it and hopefully it’ll suit me.

“Augusta, I don’t know. It might be a case of the first time I’m there it might be quite tricky.

“You have to map the golf course out well, learn where the flags are, where you don’t want to be under pressure.

“It’s no surprise that not many guys go out there and win that early on in their career.”