Willett ready for rough Ryder debut after brother’s insults


Masters champion Danny Willett is prepared for a rough reception when his first Ryder Cup opens Friday after his brother’s insults to American golf fans on a European golf website.

World number 10 Willett has not yet faced more heckling that what might be expected by any Europe player from fans on US soil on the eve of the 41st biennial team golf matches at Hazeltine.

But ruder distractions could come in Friday’s alternate shot foursomes and four-ball matches.

“I don’t think any of the European lads thought it was going to be a walk in the park,” Willett said. “There are some pretty rowdy American fans every Ryder Cup. That’s the nature of the beast.

“You don’t mind the odd bit of heckling, but hope it doesn’t go too far.”

The mess began when Pete Willett called US golf fans “fat, stupid, greedy, classless bastards” as well as a “baying mob of imbeciles” and “a giggling group of reprobates.” And those were his nicest words.

The 28-year-old Englishman apologized for his brother’s rant after learning about it during his practice round Wednesday and later spoke with his brother.

“We spoke to each other about what was said and how it got interpreted and the reactions from it,” Willett said. “I was disappointed in what he wrote and it put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup for the last couple of days.”

Willett, who captured his first major title last April when leader Jordan Spieth faltered down the back nine at Augusta National, sought out US captain Davis Love and players and explained he had no clue his brother would say such things.

“What was said wasn’t my writing and wasn’t the team’s writing or anything like that,” Willett said. “It’s nothing I mean or that I’ve said. I spoke to Davis and he was happy to draw a line under it. And I spoke to some of the American guys last night and they felt the same way.

“So in an ideal world, the fans would do the same thing and we won’t let it tarnish the 41st Ryder Cup.”

So far, Willett has gotten his wish in practice rounds.

“Luckily it has not been too bad with the fans. The fans have still been great,” he said. “There’s a few shouts out there but you can expect that. Hopefully everyone can kind of draw a line under it.”

What has been lost, however, is valuable focus and time and some of the joy of Willett’s first Ryder Cup.

“That has been the toughest thing. It has been pretty tricky for me to get back on and fully focus these last few hours,” he said. “Not saying it’s going to be completely forgotten, but hopefully it has died down a little bit more.”

– ‘Bolt out of the blue’ –

Europe teammates and compatriots Chris Wood and Lee Westwood are confident Willett can handle any over-the-top heckling that might come his way.

“Dan is so mentally strong. That has been an asset of his ever since I’ve known him,” said fellow rookie Chris Wood. “It was nothing to do with him. You could genuinely see that he was gutted by it.

“It’s completely a bolt out of the blue that nobody has got any sort of feelings towards at all in our side. No, Dan will cope just fine.”

Westwood, making his 10th Ryder Cup start, said Willett “seems to be handling it fairly well. It’s a tricky situation, one that I’m sure he didn’t want. He should be left to just play golf. That’s what the Ryder Cup’s about. Not all this other stuff.”

© 2016 AFP

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