Golf: Defending champion Danny Willett aiming to shine again in Sun City

Sheffield's Danny Willett
Sheffield's Danny Willett
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Danny Willett is hoping that lightning will strike twice as the Sheffield golfer prepares to defend his Nedbank Golf Challenge crown in South Africa this weekend.

Victory in Sun City last year provided the catalyst for a stunning season for Willett with the 28 year old going on to lead the Race to Dubai before being finally overtaken by Rory McIlroy, who won the DP World Tour Championship and again took the title of Europe’s number one.

“It’s the first tournament of the 2016 season for me and I’ll be trying to kick-start another good year,” he said.

“It was the start of a pretty awesome year. The way I won gave me confidence in my own abilities and my own game, and it took me to a few places I’d not been before, like up there in the Race to Dubai all season and competing in golf tournaments all around the world. It was all set up from the win here.”

Now Willett is hoping to get the season off to a winning start again with a potential place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team providing an added incentive to perform well in the upcoming campaign.

Having become used to finishing higher up the leaderboards, the Rotherham Golf Club man is aiming to hone that ability to handle the pressure of staying in regular contention.

Danny Willett of England holds the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge  last year

Danny Willett of England holds the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge last year

And that will include the Majors and the World Golf Championships, now that he has nailed down a place in the top 50.

“It’s a goal to be competing in WGCs and Majors, and this year we had two top five finishes and another top ten, so out of the eight events I played nicely in a few of them,” he said. “Next year we’ll be trying to push a bit more, because at the end of the day that’s where you want to be competing,” said Willett.

He added: “I spoke to Darren (Clarke) and he wants me to play well in Europe and get on the Ryder Cup team.

“So this next year I’ll be knuckling down playing in Europe and trying to get another couple of wins, getting in contention and becoming familiar with being in contention a lot. I want to see how I cope with the pressure of pitching up to events as one of the favourites and expecting to win.”

Fellow Sheffield man Matt Fitzpatrick will also be aiming to pick up where he left off at the end of last season.