Sheffield golfing hero could make Augusta National return

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The eyes of the golf world will soon be on the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia - and there could well be a Sheffield competitor on the hallowed greens after all.

City-born, Rotherham Golf Club member Danny Willett - who underwent what he described as "pretty intrusive" shoulder surgery in September is hoping to make a comeback.

After months of rest and recuperation, following two tears and cartilage damage, he is now "rushing" forward, aiming to be ready for the challenge.

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Willett may have been out of the picture for some time, but as a past Masters champion from 2016, he automatically qualifies, if fit, to participate at Augusta.

The 36-year-old went under the knife soon after the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, in late September.

The hope was that the procedure would cure an issue that had bothered him for some time.

But not everyone expected him to return to the big stage so soon - the 2024 Masters, which is set for April 11-14.

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“It’s been a pretty slow process but the last couple of months, we’ve seen some really good progression in terms of strength and I’m able to hit balls again now" he told The Bunkered Golf Podcast.

Danny Willett  and family. Pic Getty imagesDanny Willett  and family. Pic Getty images
Danny Willett and family. Pic Getty images

“There’s a seven or eight-week countdown to Augusta and we’ll rush through a few things to see if we might be able to get ready by then.

"It might be a bit too close but I definitely want to give it a good go.”

Willett might have benefited from his time away from golf.

“I’ve actually really enjoyed being off,” he said.

Danny Willett with TV's Dan Walker together for the Sheffield Children's Hospital charityDanny Willett with TV's Dan Walker together for the Sheffield Children's Hospital charity
Danny Willett with TV's Dan Walker together for the Sheffield Children's Hospital charity

“I’ve had four or five months of being able to take the kids to school, watch them play football and lots of other things that, ordinarily, I wouldn’t be able to do," said the eight-time winner on the European tour.

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“When it became clear I needed to have the surgery, it was one of those things where you kind of have to change your mindset, accept that’s the way it’s going to be and try to turn it into a positive.

"So, it’s been really nice to be at home.

“When it first happened, I was in a 90-degree sling for five weeks but you can’t be upset about it.

Danny Willett Pic: Getty imagesDanny Willett Pic: Getty images
Danny Willett Pic: Getty images

"We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do to have a prolonged career and the way it feels now, I think it’s going to prove to have been a good decision.”

The South Yorkshireman, who is married to Nicole and father to Zachariah, Noah and Spike, has every incentive to come back to Augusta.

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“The beauty of potentially playing is the fact that I know the golf course that well I’m probably not going to be slogging around 18 holes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in practice rounds.

“I’ll be able to take it a little bit easier but I also don’t want to go there and just make up the numbers," said Danny, who learned his trade at Birley Wood Golf Course, a council-owned facility.

“Ultimately I’m only 36 so I’ve still got a hell of a long time left in my career, so to have this time out now will hopefully mean I can come back and prolong my career and have another good 10 or 15 years at it.”

Eight years ago, it was at the impeccably maintained course that he became only the second Englishman to achieve the feat and the first European in 17 years to win.