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OMEGA DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC

January 31, 2017

Danny Willett

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thank you for joining us. Welcome back to defend the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic.

I suppose cast your mind back 12 months and talk a little about this victory and what it meant to you and what a year you had after.

DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, this was the start of really what was an amazing season. I played some pretty good golf in the run up to this week. And then yeah, it was one of them weeks where everything kind of clicked nicely.

We took what we've been doing at home on to the range on to the golf course, and had a couple of nice breaks through the week and holed a couple of good putts at the right times. You know, it was the first time I think within a tournament that I had been in and around the lead all week, instead of either coming from behind early on or having a lead, a biggish-lead with nine to play.

So really battling with out with Sully and Raf. They both birdied the last to obviously tie, and then yeah, you know, happened to hole that putt on the last, whatever it was, 12, 15 feet, actually needing to do that to win a golf tournament; again, that's not happened before. And to be able to stand up there and roll it in, it was big for my confidence and big for kind of the things ultimately that kind of went after that.

You look at Augusta, I could draw on Dubai quite a lot, how I played and how I played under pressure and how I composed myself mentally and having to hole a few key putts at the right time. You look at Augusta on the back nine and that kind of typifies that perfectly.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thoughts on this week, obviously another big week, Tiger's here, great event to look forward to.

DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, it is. I've said it to everyone who's asked. Every event that we play on The European Tour, they are all fantastic golf events. And it's always nice when we get the lads from the PGA Tour coming over. But when Rory is here or when Tiger is here, it makes it that little bit extra special.

It's a shame obviously Rory is out with his injury, but if you had had Rory and Tiger, this would have been a massive week early on in the season. But to see Tiger playing last week, I watched pretty much every shot of his two rounds last week and it was just great seeing him back in action.

And then to have him here this week, I think it's great for The European Tour; it's great for Dubai. Obviously it's a place he's coming back to; Tiger doesn't play events just because he wants to play them. He plays events because he knows that he's got a good chance when he turns up. He's played well around this golf course and he's got some good memories.

So I think he's coming here, as he always is. He's going to come here and try and win. And I think that's great for The European Tour to have, you know, arguably the greatest player of all time come to Dubai and to try and take that championship trophy away on Sunday.

So there's a few of us that are going to try and stop him, but yeah, it's great to have him back. It's great to have him back playing and it's great for the game and fortunately enough, I'll be able to be around all week to witness it.

Q. What was your first experience with Tiger? This year you'll be hosting him at dinner, won't you, but what was the first time you bumped into him?
DANNY WILLETT: I've not actually met him properly. You know, Ryder Cup was brief walking past but before that, you know, you see him to say hello but nothing really.

My first memories of him are chipping in at 16 on Augusta. I can't remember what year that was. That would have been '05, yeah, which is when -- I was kind of really getting into golf then. And you see that, it was almost like the perfect like advert for that tournament. I remember that shot that he played over millions and millions of times, him and Stevie going crazy and the cameras shaking and the ball just dropping in.

It's them moments I think he created for guys that are my kind of age; that really spurred them on to train harder and to practice harder and to try and accomplish even a miniscule amount of what he has.

You know, so yeah, it's just great to have him back playing, first of all; but then to be able to get him on to The European Tour, I think's brilliant.

Q. You mentioned about how 12 months ago here, helped you in a way in preparing for Augusta. Coming to 2017, do you look at sort of patterns that led to the success at the Masters, and trying to recreate how you got there?
DANNY WILLETT: No, I don't think -- that's virtually impossible. There's so many variables that go into things. I think the one constant that you get is the hard work. And if you keep ticking your boxes and if you keep working hard, then the inevitability of playing well is only just around the corner. You see that so many times within golf; that guys they miss three or four cuts go a win; play average all season and go a win.

It's just it's the game. It's kind of how it comes around. You can be beating your head against the wall for months and months and months, and all of a sudden it gives you your jackpot. You look at Stormy, unbelievable story two weeks ago, three weeks ago now.

And that's just how that game comes around. I think the only thing that you can really control and that you can really plan to try and do the same is to work as hard as you did every day up until whatever event it is. And if that leads to playing great, fine. If it doesn't, you know, you're just going to keep working hard and wait for the next chance that you get.

I think of what here and Augusta did tell me is that if I keep working hard, when I get the chances, I feel like I'm pretty ready to take them there and then, which is massive confidence-wise to be able to tell yourself when you play good.

Q. A couple of questions. Abu Dhabi week didn't go as per, I'm sure, as per your wishes.
DANNY WILLETT: You don't know my wishes (laughter). I might have wanted to go home. I might have had something on -- no, it didn't, no. (Laughter).

Q. What did you do after that? Was there something specific that you were working on your game after the Abu Dhabi week? Can you just give us a timeline of what you did in the seven, eight, ten days, whatever it was?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, I stayed in Abu Dhabi. Trained, practiced Mike and Pete were out there. The weather was good. There was no really reason to go home too early. Often we miss cuts and we fly home on the Friday night because we're in a huff and stuff.

But I was actually not too disheartened. I had thrown some terrible golf shots in there, but I wasn't far away. I just kept hitting path pulls, you know, and when you try and hit fade, you've got to path it left to hit a fade. But unfortunately I was letting the club go with it hitting pulls. I knew within that vein that the swing wasn't miles away.

So it was more just trying to make sure that, again, I was able to step on a golf course, and if you want to hit fades, you need to aim left; but you also need to know that it's not going to go left. That's what we've been working on, really, for the last nine, ten days is just putting a safety valve in there of being able to aim left again, which is what we did all last year. We were able to aim down the left side of golf holes and know that it was always coming back.

So that's what we've been doing for the last ten days, and it feels a good bit better. I've been working really hard, as I always do. Because like I said before, that's the only one thing that you can control within life within this game is how hard you work. And as long as I know within myself, you know, the levels that I'm working at, then I can accept playing bad. I mean, it is what it is.

So you know, we're working hard, like I said, at trying to take one side out of the equation. And then I think from there, you can gain confidence in the shots that you hit and you start lines, and then all you've got to do is, like I say, work on your chipping and putting, which is very difficult to do back at home because it was very cold last week.

It's been a good ten days in fairness. It's been a nice, couple of days off with Little Man and making sure he was all right. And then again, we're practicing hard again because we want to practice hard. The back end of last season, I was practicing just because I felt like I should be practicing.

So it's nice to get that little bit of fun go back into your belly and to actually want to come back out and want to do the things that we did last year.

It's going to be hard to match last year, but we're going to try our best to do so.

Q. And the second question is, we all know you are a fighter. The Race to Dubai last year, and the last to last year, we all saw how you keep coming back. I wanted to ask you, given what happened at The Ryder Cup, when you go back to America to play your first few events, how have you prepared yourself for that?
DANNY WILLETT: In what way?

Q. Mentally. I mean, I'm sure there will be some residual effect of what happened at The Ryder Cup still.
DANNY WILLETT: What, me playing bad? I think they will welcome me with open arms. Playing terrible, giving them a few points, I think they'll be all right with that (laughter).

No, I think -- I'm playing Honda. I feel like I've had a very good relationship with the American fans for a long, long time. Every time I've gone over there. Yeah, The Ryder Cup tainted things a little bit, but I think people realise that obviously words were said and stuff.

But then they are obviously not mine. So there shouldn't be any issues. I wouldn't have thought -- you'd hope not, anyway. People might, but if they do, that's their choice. Let's hope it doesn't go there, but we'll have to wait and see.

Q. We talked to you in Abu Dhabi, and you said you were hitting it great on the range and struggling to take it to the course. Does that mean this week you've had a good time because obviously you've taken a lot of good feelings on to this golf course. What would constitute a successful week for you here?
DANNY WILLETT: I don't know, again, if you can put a number or a finish position on what would constitute a good result. For me, being able to have good practice sessions, taking on the golf course; not just standing on the range beating balls.

Yesterday we only had -- I think the tee was closing in 20 minutes, so we clipped a few balls and went and played a few holes, which we haven't done for awhile. We've almost been too much on the range trying to get everything perfect.

Whereas yesterday, me and Johnny said, well, I'll tell you what, this golf course is great for going to play three, four, five, six holes in an hour if you've got a spare bit of time, so that's what we did. It was nice to take a few of the feelers from the range on to the golf course, and it was nice yesterday to do that and we did it, ish.

So it's just doing more of the same. We're going to go play nine this afternoon and obviously got the Pro-Am tomorrow. Again, just trying to get back to hitting one shot. Trying to hit a fade again. It's done us pretty good over the last two years.

So it's really about getting back to that, like I said, taking out the left side of the golf course and trusting it. We've played around this golf course last year, which a lot of the tee shots around here, primarily draw. Same as Augusta.

But because the starting lines were good, we were able to hit fade around here and actually get it around well. That's what we're going to kind of try and work on these next two days is, like I said, taking out the left side of the golf course. And you can aim it, a dogleg right-to-left you can aim at that left trap and that know you're going to cut it off that bunker and know that you're actually going on okay.

That's where mentally where it's been tricky. Last week we aimed at that left-hand trap down the left side of the fairway, and hit it in it because we weren't cutting it enough, and that was all it really was. And then obviously around that golf course, if you're in the rough or in the trouble off the face of a bunker, you physically can't get to some of them greens. It doesn't take much like a golf course around Abu Dhabi to shoot a few over par, and like I say, it didn't quite go how I would have planned and how we've been practicing. But yeah, hopefully that will change this week.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Danny, good luck with your defence this week. Thanks for joining us.

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