The Open: Danny Willett walks out of the darkness

Danny Willett on the final day at Carnoustie
Danny Willett on the final day at Carnoustie
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In his own words, Danny Willett had spent a long time in a dark place.

He had endured the most dramatic of falls from the pinnacle of his sport after putting on the Green Jacket in Augusta in April 2016.

The Sheffield golfer slumped from ninth in the world rankings to deep in the 400s over an incredibly difficult 18 month spell when form and fitness evaded him in the cruelest or manners.

It was a struggle played out under the intense scrutiny a Major winner is always going to draw.

Willett was written off. The deeply unfair suggestions his Masters triumph was a fluke grew greater in number.

But the darkness is finally giving way to the light.

Over the past few months the hard work, changes to his game, management of his health and careful planning and guidance have looked as though they were beginning to bear fruit.

But this past weekend at The Open suggested Willett is far from finished and the good times could be on their way back.

He did not triumph at Carnoustie – that honour went to Francesco Molinari – and he did not particularly look like doing over the final two days.

And there will certainly be some personal frustration and disappointment that he did not take opportunities on Saturday and Sunday – two days which brought a one over par score over 36 holes.

But, back in the intense spotlight of a Major, he looked much more like the Danny Willett of old.

Long before his triumph at Augusta, Willett was one of the most consistent players on the European Tour.

For several years that looked set to secure him a steady, if unspectacular career. But he continued to improve and was soon consistently one of the Tour’s best operators.

He may have been a surprise Masters champion but those who had watched him closely were not so shocked.

More surprising was the manner in which he slumped afterwards.

Good days in tournaments were so often followed by horrendous ones as he was locked in a battle for physical and mental strength.

Changes to coaching and management looked desperate, but ultimately they have proved vital to his career and well-being.

Under the guidance of Sean Foley he has rebuilt his game, a fresh approach to ensure a return of the quality of golf while also looking after his body.

It has been a long road but Willett is making significant headway.

And he is doing it with a smile on his face.

His post-round interviews at Carnoustie were upbeat and he looked as relaxed as he has done for a long, long time.

It is easy when faced with positive questions and asked what is going right, but Willett has earned that.

The Green Jacket seemed to be a millstone around his neck. And when it was replaced, it was done so by the stigma of his rapid decline.

Now, as he looks to be on his way back up, external expectations have minimised and he can simple get on with getting better.

A tie for 24th place at The Open has people talking positively about Willett once again.

Out of the darkness and into the light.