March 1, 2016
STEVE TODD: Danny, many thanks for joining us. Welcome to Doral. Terrific start to the season for you. How much confidence does that give you coming into the first WGC of the year.
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, it's good. You know, you try not to build confidence on results, but obviously it's always nice to kind of have a good, quick start to the year.
We're in a great position, obviously World Ranking-wise and Order of Merit now to really push on, and the next kind of step up I guess is trying to play well in WGCs and majors.
We had a pretty good run last year in most of them, so, yeah, just looking forward to playing against the best players in the world and seeing how we can get on.
STEVE TODD: You mentioned last year, tied 12th here and you went on a good run in the WGCs, how much confidence did you take in continuing that form throughout the rest of the year and into this year?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, it's good. It's always nice to have good results anyway, but obviously in a World Golf Championship and in majors, they are the best fields in the world. I think this week, there are 47 out of the Top-50 in the world here, which is just a tremendous field. You know that you're going to have to play good golf to be up there and compete on a pretty tough golf course. Yeah, just looking forward to the challenge ahead I guess.
Q. What were your impressions of the course and some of the changes made by Gil Hanse?
DANNY WILLETT: I think the changes are good. Yeah, we played nine yesterday, nine today, so we've played all 18 now, and I think the changes that have been put in place are very good. I think they are trying to take it so much out of the guys' hands who obviously fly it 310 and put a few more obstacles in their way.
Still obviously favors the long hitters out here. If you can still carry it over a few and hit it certain distances, you're still going to come in with a lot less. They just popped a bunker here, there, you know, to kind of catch them out, but if they are playing well, it shouldn't pose too much of a threat.
I think what they have done is they are trying to get the field, I guess a little bit closer together at the top end and not always have it that you've got the four longest hitters in the field up there; you might be able to throw in a couple of others.
Yeah, I've really happy with what they have done.
Q. As a non-American, could you speak to the novelty of coming to play in an important golf event and potentially facing the prospect of having a trophy given to you by a presidential candidate on Sunday?
DANNY WILLETT: (Laughs) I don't know how -- I don't know how much he'll be in the running and if he wants time.
But it's a great event. It would be a shame if it kind of gets to the direction that it sounds like it could head and Cadillac could pull out; I think it would be a shame. Trump's been pretty good for golf. It would be a shame if that was to go south and not go very well.
But yeah, it's always good to come to America and play golf. You know, categorically, you get better fields over here. Again, this week is definitely no exception.
It's good. It's different from back home. It's different types of golf courses we play and it's good to test yourself on different grasses in different countries and stuff, and you know, to be one of the best players in the world, you need to learn to win everywhere. So that's kind of where we're at with it all.
Q. Nearly half the field this week is projected to be in the Olympics, yourself included. How much do you allow yourself to think about the Olympics, and do you check the standings very often, where you stood every week?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, you check it. Obviously pops up everywhere Sky Sports, Twitter, everywhere that you look, obviously there's weekly updates, as the World Golf Rankings do, as well. It's always interesting to see where you are and how things are getting on.
Yeah, obviously when you're on the golf course, you're not really thinking about that. We come here and try and prepare well to compete that week. You know, fortunately we've been able to put all that stuff aside in the head, and actually come and play pretty good for the first few months of the season.
No, I think the Olympics, looking how it's shaping up, are going to be great fun. If they get the field and everyone who is actually in it right now actually plays, I think they are in for a fantastic tournament down in Rio.
Q. Where you are in your career now, do you think you're ready to win a WGC event? Is that where you are now?
DANNY WILLETT: I think ready to win any golf event that you pitch up to, as long as it's your week and you play well. Golf's a strange old game. Doesn't matter who you're up against and where it is. If you play well, any one of the guys in the Top-50 in the world can win anywhere.
Shane proved that last year at Bridgestone. Other people have obviously beaten Tiger and Rory and people down the stretch, and won these big golf tournaments, too.
So I think you've just got to try and not put too much pressure on yourself, because it is a World Golf Championship and just go out there and try and have a bit of fun and play golf. It's one of them where if you play good and things go your way, touch wood, it happens at the right weeks.
It could happen in South Africa in a relatively small European Tour event; it could happen on one of the biggest stages in the world. You just hope that every now and again, that's what happens and you can kind of pull one of them off.
Q. Do you look at the Top-10 in the world, you've come close to, you're 15 now, but you've come pretty close to cracking it. Is that a big thing to you?
DANNY WILLETT: No, there's still 14 spots to go. There's only one place that everyone up there wants to be and that's everyone's goal. I don't think you can ask anyone in the Top-50 in the world, I guess, and they wouldn't tell you that they are striving to be No. 1. If they're not, then more fool them. That's what you work hard for; I don't work hard to try and finish average. You work hard to try and win.
Fortunately enough I've been able to do that and hopefully I can continue to do that and see where it takes us.
Q. How different will it be going back to Augusta this year with a year's experience and with where you are now in the World Rankings and having been there once before?
DANNY WILLETT: I'm looking forward to Augusta, if I get to go play. Obviously Nic's due that week, so all depends on how our little man is fairing, if he fancies coming out early on, it would be great, but if not, I won't be playing.
Yeah, hopefully, yeah, we have a nice, easy smooth early birth and I can get out there, even if I go and fly out Tuesday, Wednesday. It's one of the golf tournaments you don't really want to miss.
Obviously playing it last year, I've still got my books, all my notes. So if it's a last-minute jaunt there, it would still be awesome. So hopefully we can be on a plane there this year.
Q. If you're like ten shots clear on the Friday night --
DANNY WILLETT: No, if she's not given birth, I'll not go. It's too far to get back. You can't get back in time. There's plenty more Masters.
Q. You've played all around the world. What do you think of 18 as one of the most difficult closing holes? Do you consider that among the most difficult in the world?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, most definitely. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single golf hole that you would play all year that's not that -- especially with the wind, how it usually plays around here. If it was downwind, it would be a different story. But wind out of the left for most guys is pretty tough, and obviously for the guys who don't hit it miles, it just makes it ridiculous.
We hit a nice-ish drive yesterday and had 207 flag. I know the flag is obviously in a practice round quite middle, middle-ish of green. But still 207, you're looking at 4- or 3-iron into a green that's not exactly built for a 4- or 3-iron. I think in terms of world of golf, off the top of my head, I haven't played one yet that's this tough.
Q. There are some coaches in the United States, not the most well-balanced people, mind you, have had their wives induce labor so their children are not born during the season. Would that even be a possibility so you could have -- be there for the labor and play in the Masters, too?
DANNY WILLETT: Well, I mean, in an ideal world, it will come out a little bit early. But no, it's one of them, we've got a good few scans and meetings with the doctor over the next few weeks when I'm home, and if he's ready, it might be something that we look at. But, you know, if he's not cooked yet, then we're just going to leave him a little bit (laughter) we're going to leave him in wait. Something I don't think you can really force; you can't really force it in life, can you.
Q. On the subject of being cooked yet, Ryder Cup is coming up this year. Is that in your mind? Do you have any thoughts on Darren Clarke as a captain, and what do you think of what the Americans have been doing with these meetings and Jack Nicklaus's house and fly fishing and all this stuff?
DANNY WILLETT: I think what they have been doing is really good. You can't beat team morale and obviously getting guys together in a room with closed doors, no coaches, managers, anyone else there, family there, just a whole bunch of lads in a room talking about the great things that they have achieved, I think it's very clever what they have been doing.
I'm hopefully going to be there, but it's in September. Again, it's a long time away. It would be a real privilege to be there and obviously playing under Clarkey again like we did at EurAsia Cup. Looking at how it's shaping up, it could be a pretty young team.
I think the guys, Sergio's obviously not really played much, but I think whenever he does play, he plays great. Obviously he's going to be there and obviously Rosey and Rory and Stenson.
But there's a few guys at the minute, they are going to have to play really well to get on the team. I'm just excited the fact that I'm up there and I've got the opportunity and I've got the chance. If I can continue to play good golf, then come September, hopefully I'll be on the flight with Clarkey to Hazeltine.
Q. There is a chance that there could be quite a few rookies on the team, but just speaking to somebody earlier, will there be real rookies, in the sense of yourself and maybe Shane would be on that team, guys that have performed well in big events, do you think maybe that might be overlooked; that they are quite experienced young players?
DANNY WILLETT: Yes and no. It's one of them, you're going to be a rookie at some point, aren't you, playing in a Ryder Cup. Probably better to be a rookie having won a few times and performed well under pressure in big events.
Again, I've never played it, so I can't really say, but from what I've heard it's the most nerve-wracking thing you can do. You will definitely still feel like a rookie, I would have said, in that instance.
But I mean, I think it would be great. I think the young lads that are up and around there would thrive on it and would have a great time. So no, I think it's going to be great.
STEVE TODD: Thanks for joining us, Danny. Good luck this week.
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