CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Danny Willett believes he can finally see some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel he has been inhabiting since his 2016 U.S. Masters victory.
The Englishman again showed his troubles may be a thing of the past when he reeled off five birdies in an opening two-under 69 in the first round of the British Open on Thursday.
Willett has been tormented by poor form since his win at Augusta, missing cut after cut after cut, but there are clear signs he is getting back to his best.
He followed up his tied eighth finish at the Italian Open in May with a tie for sixth at the Irish Open two weeks ago, and another excellent performance on a benign day at Carnoustie brought a satisfied smile to his face.
“I’m pretty hopeful we’ll never be in as dark a place as we were,” Willett told reporters after ending his round-three shots adrift of early clubhouse leader Kevin Kisner of the United States.
Asked to explain just how dark it had been, he replied: “Pitch black. It wasn’t good for a while but that’s kind of the situation we were in.
“We were fighting and the body was being really uncooperative. Unfortunately in this game, trying to travel and play 26 weeks around the world, travelling countless amount of air miles, isn’t good for the body.”
Willett was up with the larks on Thursday, rising at four o’clock to prepare for his 0657 tee time, and it appeared as though he was slow to rub the sleep from his eyes after bogeying the opening hole.
The 30-year-old bounced back in style with a birdie hat-trick from the fourth, which provided the momentum for a surge through the field that only stalled when he dropped strokes at the last two holes.
“That was good. There were a lot of 12, 15 footers as well that just slid by the hole,” said Willett.
“It was an early start but that’s the best tee time, isn’t it? You get days like this as they really are the best days to play an Open in the morning,” he said.
“As much as you don’t like getting up at 4:20, you can go back and get your feet up. You know there’s going to be some good scores and you’re going to tumble down the leaderboard, but you’ve done your shift, and you can go get ready for tomorrow.”
Editing by Mark Heinrich