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December 7, 2014

Danny Willett


MIKE GREEN:  Ladies and gentlemen, Danny Willett, our 20 Nedbank Golf Challenge length champion.  Thanks so much for joining us here.
An extraordinary round and an extraordinary tournament, I think three bogeys the whole week, and an absolutely brilliant 66 today.  It looked as if you went out looking for this win today, and just got it right.
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, we said at the start of the week, me and John came up with a good game plan, we are going to take it aggressive off the tee on this golf course.  It's visually very intimidating.
We had been driving the ball great and we said we were going to take it off the tee and try to give ourselves a lot more wedges 9‑irons into holes where some guys are just laying back.  Just one of them weeks where the swing felt good and it came off.
MIKE GREEN:  A big tournament to win clearly, you're second on The European Tour, and even bigger, takes you inside the Top 60 in the World Rankings and that's going to give you a little bit of a good feeling ahead of next week's tournament, looking to get a place in one of the majors now.
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, it was the goal at the start of the year, obviously a long time ago now, to try and get up near the Top‑50 or get into the Top‑50, and it's been a long process.  We've played a lot of good golf this year, a lot of consistent golf.
The last few weeks things have kind of clicked a little bit more and obviously had a good finish in Turkey, played nicely in Dubai and came here on pretty good form.  South Africa is a place that's suited me in the past, played good golf down here, love the place, love the people, everything about it is great.  It's been a truly fun test of golf.
MIKE GREEN:  You've played here 14 times and a Top‑10 six times and you came fourth in the Joburg Open in 2009 and 2010.  Other than the people, the courses must be pretty nice for you.
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, we seem to be okay on the greens down here.  They seem to remind me a bit of back home.  There's not too much grain or anything daft going on.  It's pretty much what you see is what you get.  And obviously the heat for my body and my back and stuff is always a bonus.  I don't know what else to say.  I do feel very comfortable when I come down here.
MIKE GREEN:  Tell us about your round today.  You said you were going out aggressive but there was some shots that were perhaps, some of the commentators thought they were a bit crazy, driver off 13 and 17.
DANNY WILLETT:  No, again, we've hit driver up 13 every day apart from yesterday because the tee was obviously back and you can't guarantee the cover.
But again, I mean, the stuff we've had from Callaway, we put it in the bag a few weeks ago and it's been tremendous.  We can really trust it up the left side and moving it back into the fairway, and we did that.  Did it on 13 brilliant, started on the left tree and obviously cut it off that.
And then 17, I don't get why anyone would do anything else.  You can fly the traps at 265, 270 so that ends up making your fairway 60 yards wide.  We played to our strengths:  The fact that we can fly it a long way through the air and we can take out a lot of the bunker trouble that's for the short areas off the tee, which obviously gives you probably 50, 60 yards less into the greens which is a big help out here.

Q.  How big were the bunker saves?
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, 14 was probably one of the best.  6 was a little bit unlucky.  We had a wind switch mid‑flight which happens around here, we are playing it slightly in, trying to play it 130, we had 125 pin, trying to play it 130 and wind switched and it went 131.
Got up there with a terrible lie, but one of them shots you try and play and you hope it's going to come out like it does, and you kind of semi‑know you have a chance of it being your day when it comes out like it does and you say save par.
The birdie on 14 was big.  Them two obviously just creeping back a little bit more, just give me that little bit of breathing space again.

Q.  Will you celebrate the win in South Africa by jumping out of the sky again?
DANNY WILLETT:  No, I think it was good to do it once.  Well, we might do it again, you never know, me and my wife.  It was good fun when we did it so we might as well do it again at some point I guess.

Q.  The first five holes, basically, you took control of the final round with an amazingly fast start.  Was there a specific game plan?  Did you go out thinking you wanted a fast start?
DANNY WILLETT:  Again, we just said we would play aggressive.  You know, we hit a lot of drivers off the first few holes where a lot of guys were probably hitting irons and 3‑woods.
Like I said, they end up giving us the opportunity to hit it in close.  We hit 5‑iron into two.  We have got a little 9‑iron into 3 where some guys are probably hitting, 6‑, 7‑irons into a very narrow green with the wind flicking around.
You can't guarantee a fast start, but certainly the intention was to go out there and not just hang back.  We were trying to chase Luke down, and luckily enough it happened on the second hole and then we just went from there.

Q.  Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and now yourself, champions of this event.
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, it's not too bad.  Some good names to be next to.  It's always nice walking up the 9th, obviously with the name engraved on the pathway up the left, you kind of realise how many great players have been here and walked over the same bridge as you have and had a great week.
Hopefully we can come back here year after year and do it again.

Q.  They always say the players never keep an eye on the scoreboard, but there must have been a time when you looked at it and thought, I've got this in the bag, it's mine to throw away now?
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, unfortunately, you don't ever say probably I've got this in the bag.  Usually say the opposite; you say, I can only throw it away now and look stupid.

Q.  Where was that point for you?
DANNY WILLETT:  We got to 15 and 16 and the guys are kind of milling around 12‑ or 13‑under par.  I always had two or three shots with kind of nine, ten holes to play.
9 was a little bit of a kick up the back side.  We had two good shots in there and obviously walked off with the worst score.
But to bounce back on 10 and make birdie and we really committed to some really good golf shots down the next few, and it was always comfortable enough, but still, you put pressure on yourself regardless of how many shots you are in front or behind.  It's more pressure you're putting on yourself.

Q.  Any thoughts on messing up Luke's birthday for him?
DANNY WILLETT:  No.  Well, it gives me ten years, so I'm sure he's been around here enough times and he's got plenty more tournaments left in him.  Luckily enough, this was my week.

Q.  Did he say anything about his birthday?
DANNY WILLETT:  No, I asked him how old he was today and he didn't answer.  (Laughter) He eventually did.

Q.  You talk about "we"; is that your caddie?
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, I said it outside to the guys.  All people see is me hitting golf shots and me practising and me this; but behind the scenes, John takes care of a lot of stuff so that I can just do that and hopefully think freely.  Again, it's not just John.
My wife, she puts up with a shot of stick in the weeks leading up to a tournament when I'm trying to practise a lot, and obviously then the weeks here.  You try to organise going out for dinner and also make sure she's having a nice week.  I think she's missed one round all year.  She's been there through thick and thin, through good rounds, bad rounds, good weather, bad weather, and it's finally nice to actually win when she's been here.

Q.  And John's surname?

Q.  Smart man.
DANNY WILLETT:  (Laughter).

Q.  Thomas Björn said winning here setup a great season for him in Europe, and half the year he was atop The Race to Dubai.  You must be thinking, well, that could be me?
DANNY WILLETT:  Well, it is.  It's a huge‑‑ ever since this tournament, I think last year was the first year it went on the Order of Merit.  Since then, it's one of them goals; gives you a real boost on the guys that have taken a few weeks off and toning down for the off‑season and working on their games.
I've always played one before Christmas, whether it be Leopard Creek or SA Open or anything like that.  When we got in here, it does it really gives you a massive boost.  The money is obviously ridiculous this week.
But I guess it's a bonus for playing well through the 2014 season, and it's just fantastic to take the opportunity now, and like I say, we've pressed on and now we're leading the Order of Merit and we're going to play next week still and hopefully we can increase it even more.

Q.  Any immediate goals for the upcoming season?
DANNY WILLETT:  No, it's obviously a goal just to keep playing well, keep scoring good, keep improving, health, game, everything.  Winning along the way is obviously one of them bonuses.
I said it earlier in the week, some of the guys that have had great careers have probably only won nine to 12 times.  You look at someone like Luke or Thomas; very few guys win every year for a 25‑year career.  It's my sixth year now, to win two times, two great events, it's really good.

Q.  Three Englishman at the top, pretty much Englishman all the way through the four days.  What's the coincidence?
DANNY WILLETT:  I really don't know to be honest.  Three guys and obviously three very different games, as well.  Ross hits it a long way, myself hit it a relatively long way and Luke is obviously a fantastic scorer and gets around golf courses as you've seen when he was world No. 1, if fantastically well.  So three very different golf games.
Personally for me, it's a lot about to do with the grass.  Makes a huge difference when you go to countries that have got very grainy grass or very sticky grass around the greens, you're not quite used to it.  Down here I've always enjoyed it.  Feels similar on the greens to back home.  That's for me but I don't know about the other guys.

Q.  With your ranking being much higher, are you going to be looking at the US PGA TOUR this year, as well, or will you concentrate more on The European Tour?
DANNY WILLETT:  No, it's still the same.  I love golf in Europe.  I love the guys over here.  The golf courses we play are obviously very different.
We're going to try and obviously play every major, would be fantastic again, and if we get other events along the way, then so be it.  But yeah, a goal when I was younger was obviously PGA TOUR.  Everything's out there.  They have got great events, but then you come to a week like this, and I don't care how good your PGA TOUR event is, I don't think it's going to really match up to this.

Q.  In a similar suit, your game has obviously been on the rise the last couple of years, but do you think winning in an elite field event like this could just kick start you even higher into the top echelon of world golf?
DANNY WILLETT:  Yeah, the last three weeks, three tournaments we've played, obviously Turkey, Dubai and this week have been very three good fields and I've performed very, very well.  We had a little slip up in Dubai on the weekend.  We went into the weekend I think one back, and different story this weekend.  Obviously a 13‑under weekend as opposed to a level par weekend will make all the difference.
No, we are just going to keep playing, and it's nice to win obviously against a very good field.  But all it tells you is that you're improving and that your game can stand up to it.
MIKE GREEN:  I think on that note, we'll call an end to it and congratulations again, Danny.  Thanks so much for spending time with us.

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