Martin Smith Column: Why Danny Willett’s break from golf could yetprove to be a Smart move

Danny Willett and caddy Jonathan Smart in happier times
Danny Willett and caddy Jonathan Smart in happier times
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You can see it in his eyes.

Those blue-greens that shone brighter than the Masters jacket last year appear have lost their lustre, at least temporarily. Danny Willett, the man who transfixed the golf world with his talent and plain speaking 12 months ago has announced he’s taking a short break from golf.

Good idea.

‘Body and mind need a rest,’ he tweeted when confirming that his recurring back problem had flared again. Results and performances have been poor by his standards lately and on Friday he parted company with caddy and boyhood mate Jonathan Smart.

From the outside it doesn’t look good.

The dip in form has seen him fall 10 places to 21 in the world since the turn of the year and at times like this golf’s muttering, judgmental head-shakers are keen to have their two-penn’orth. And most of it is negative.

But the Sheffield golfer whose disbelief at his own brilliance captured the imagination of the sporting world deserves better.

If the man who took Hendo’s and Yorkshire pudding to Augusta for the champion’s dinner needs an example he could do a lot worse than look at the way Lee Westwood has bounced back over the years.

The 43-year-old Worksop golfer has never had a day quite like Willett’s at the masters last year - he actually finished three shots behind Willett in second place - but Westwood has been at the top of his profession for 20 years. He knows the emotional rough and bunkers, how to deal with them and keep coming back to the top again and again with a smile on his face. No matter how hard that may be.

Have a rest, get your back right and go again Danny. We’re right behind you.

n Last week’s call from this column for Sheffield United fans to get behind Wednesday in the play-offs got, shall we say, a mixed reception.

A few thought it sensible, some were amused, others outraged. If you want to see people at their tribal, bigoted, irrational worst just say something rational, positive and optimistic about a city and one of its football teams.

Rivalry is great, we all feel it, it’s what gives football its edge, makes it socially what it is.

It’s also what gives it its dark side. Beware the dark side.