Golf: Danny Willett aiming for quick return to top in Race to Dubai
Danny Willett wants to quickly banish memories of the worst week of his career by reclaiming top spot in the Race to Dubai in the Turkish Airlines Open.
Willett had led the money list since claiming his first major title at Augusta in April, but was overtaken by Open champion Henrik Stenson on Sunday.
Stenson was joint-second in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai as Willett finished 14 over par and 75th in the 78-man field, turning the Swede’s deficit of more than 400,000 points into a lead of 261,387.
With Stenson not competing, Willett can move back above his Ryder Cup team-mate by finishing outright fifth or better at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort, which is hosting the £5.7million event for the first time.
“We’ve been leading it for a long, long time and unfortunately last week I had probably my worst event on Tour,” said Willett, who finished second to Rory McIlroy last year when the Northern Irishman was controversially allowed to remain on the money list despite not playing enough events.
“I had a terrible week last week and it was one of them things where anything that could go wrong, did go wrong and I didn’t play great.
“It’s unfortunate that Henrik jumped above us but we were never going to win the Race to Dubai on the amount we were on. We always had to bump it forward and that’s still the aim. Hopefully the golf game gets a little better and we just keep working forward.
“This is a pretty big week. It gives me a chance to either close that gap or hopefully leapfrog Henrik again and make it really interesting coming down to the last two events.”
Willett is playing in all three Final Series events in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai despite ongoing back problems which forced him to withdraw from the British Masters last month.
The 29-year-old added: “It’s a lot of travel, but we kind of feel like we’ve got to play every single one and give ourselves the best chance of being European number one. It’s something that not many guys have been able to do and it would be nice this year to go one better than last year.
“It was probably my mistake not taking my physio last week. This week he’s here and he’s going to come to the first half of next week and then to Dubai. We’re doing all we can.”
Despite his victory at Augusta and another in Dubai at the start of the year, Willett revealed he has been working on changes to his swing under the guidance of coaches Pete Cowen and Mike Walker.
Part of that is related to his back problem, but the world number 10 also wants to get even better and challenge for more major titles in the years to come.
“April was obviously a pretty magical month, but you still try and push your game forward,” added Willett, who lost all three of his matches on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine.
“At times that leads to taking a few steps backwards and unfortunately it’s happened at a really bad time. But the focus isn’t on the short-term goal. It’s a long-term goal and you’ve got to start making changes eventually and doing something different if you want to get better.
“Everyone’s getting better and just because I won in April it doesn’t mean that that’s going to continue forever. We’re working incredibly hard in the gym, off the golf course, doing everything right and practising hard. But it’s just not quite going the way that I would have envisioned it going.”