US Open: Back injury forces Danny Willett to withdraw after horror start in Wisconsin

Danny Willett
Danny Willett
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Danny Willett's unhappy season continued on Friday as he withdrew from the US Open with an ongoing back injury.

The Sheffield golfer struggled to a nine-over-par 81 in the first round at Erin Hills, carding a double bogey, eight bogeys and a solitary birdie on the ninth, his final hole.

"Well I must say... I think that birdie on the last kept me in with a sniff," Willett joked on Twitter on Thursday evening, but on Friday he pulled out of the year's second major before starting his second round.

Willett capitalised on a dramatic collapse by Jordan Spieth to win the Masters last year, the Yorkshireman compiling a flawless closing 67 to become the first English winner at Augusta National since Nick Faldo in 1996.

The 29-year-old also finished third in the BMW PGA Championship and second in the Italian Open, but was struggling for form by the time of his Ryder Cup debut and failed to win a single point, albeit not helped by his brother's controversial article about American fans.

So far in 2017 he has failed to convert a three-shot 54-hole lead in Malaysia, become the first defending champion since Mike Weir in 2004 to miss the cut at Augusta and split from his long-time caddie mid-tournament.

Willett also withdrew from the Players Championship after nine holes of the second round and, from a career-high of ninth in the rankings, is on the verge of dropping out of the top 30 - a position he has not occupied since the 2015 Open Championship.