The rise of Master-ful Danny Willett is no surprise at all
As incredible drama unfolded on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Georgia, one question was on the lips of golf's more casual fans '“ just who is Danny Willett?
But there were plenty in on the secret about the newest winner of The Masters, shaking their heads at the suggestion the triumph of the Sheffield golfer was a surprise.
In the moments before Willett was confirmed as Masters champion, England’s former world number one Luke Donald sent out the following on Twitter.
“This isn’t a shock win. Danny Willett has been playing great for two years now.”
Donald’s heralding of the 28-year-old was shared by many who had kept an eye on European golf’s fastest rising star over the last two years.
It is not simply tournament results why there should not have been a great deal of surprise on Sunday – though they have been pretty good.
In 2015 he won the Omega European Masters and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. There were four other top five finishes plus a sixth place at The Open at St Andrews, where he had led after the second day.
His Masters triumph has taken him to two tournament wins for 2016 alone. His third place at the WGC Cadillac Championship in Florida last month means there is no denying Willett his Ryder Cup debut later this year.
Tournament wins are the ultimate goal but it is the nature of a player’s game that determines whether they can truly take their place among golf’s elite.
And the former City School pupil has rapidly improved to become one of the game’s most consistent and reliable performers. You can add fearless and unflappable to that too.
Willett’s journey to the Green Jacket may have been granted an unexpected shortcut following Jordan Speith’s spectacular collapse but the fact he was on the road at all was down to his qualities as a player.
He is a golfer who is not spectacularly good at one thing. He is just very good at everything. Power off the tee, accuracy with irons and a golden touch with the putter.
And the fact he demonstrates incredible mental toughness makes him a very dangerous player.
This year’s Masters was arguably perfect for Sheffield’s son of a vicar and a maths teacher.
Unpredictable winds and lightning-fast greens called for calmness and composure across all four days. It said everything that you could count on one hand the number of players who shot under par rounds in rounds two and three.
Some of golf’s highest profile names failed to handle the conditions and saw their challenges wane. Willett’s never did.
He has worked tirelessly on his game, all while managing a persistent back issue that threatened to derail his upturn at the very start.
But he has worked equally tirelessly on the mental side of his game in sessions with renowned sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.
They key to his unflappability was on full show on the final hole on the final day at Augusta.
There was movement among the members of the crowd around the tee box which twice saw Willett step away from his ball. On the second occasion he began his preparation for the shot from scratch, starting with caddy Jonathan Smart redelivering his assessment of the hole and advice on the shot.
Willett’s main task now, as he looks to continue his incredible rise ascent into the golfing stratosphere, is to juggle his professional and personal lives.
A first Major title and a first child in the space of a fortnight is not the easiest thing to handle.
But you would not bet against Willett returning from his paternity leave with the same steely determination that won him The Masters as he looks to tackle a busy summer of golf.
And should he pick up another Major title, there will be no surprise.