April 4, 2017
MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed my great pleasure to welcome back to Augusta National our defending Masters champion, Mr.Danny Willett.
Last year, in only his second Masters appearance, Danny played incredible golf in some very challenging conditions, and climbed to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday with a bogey‑free final round of 67, shooting 3‑under par. In his last six holes, he erased a five‑stroke deficit to become only the second Englishman to claim the green jacket.
Before we open it up to questions, Danny, can you tell us what the past year has been like as Masters Champion and how do you feel to be back this week as the defending champion?
DANNY WILLETT: Well, obviously being back anywhere and defending champion is pretty special. And to be able to drive down Magnolia Lane with a green jacket in the car, you know, and to come back and to be announced on the tee as the defending champion is something special. To be able to do it here at Augusta is, you know, words can't really quite describe the feeling.
Yeah, so far this week's been amazing just to be back and all the memories and the feelings that you get from this place. And the last 12 months has been somewhat of a roller coaster within life and golf. So we're kind of getting back on now to getting the game back hopefully into a place where, you know, we can get into positions where we were last year on Sunday. Yeah, there's been some up‑and‑downs but you know, to be Masters Champion for this 12 months has been amazing. To be able to take the green jacket to places and to wear it with pride and for people to see it and see the expression on people's faces when they see one in the flesh, is something special to see.
So yeah, it's going to be a shame, potentially, if you've got to give it back on Sunday. But just to have it and, like I said, to have the 12 months that I've had has been amazing. It would be incredible to be able to do it again sometime.
Q. There's a lot of ceremony with being Masters Champion, and you've become a statesman of this Club by winning. Do you have to try and not get caught up in that a little bit and remain who you were before you were a champion, not get caught up in the political aspect of it, the ceremonial aspect and just try and be Danny Willett from Sheffield still?
DANNY WILLETT: Well, I think you look at every champion that's won at Augusta is still themselves, and you know, how they take it upon themselves to do good for golf, I think the guys stayed exactly the same, as will I. We're part of a pretty special club, all the winners.
Every time you go in the champions locker room and see the guys, we all kind of appreciate what we did in winning in our own certain ways. I don't think we're going to get too caught up in anything else apart from coming here and playing golf and enjoying, like I said, being part of what is a pretty special club at Augusta.
Q. Has being a Major Champion made you a more patient player or a more impatient player?
DANNY WILLETT: I think the last 12 months has shown it's made me a little more impatient. It's a difficult one. I think achieving what I achieved last year and performing under pressure that I did on Sunday, you come away and if you don't do that every time, you get a bit annoyed. You feel like you should be able to, and you've done it once, why can't you do it every time you play. That's where the game jumps up and bites you. It's not that easy. You can't just do it week‑in and week‑out. There's a few men that have been able to do it over the years, but they are few and far between.
I think it kind of put a little bit much impatience in there. And if everything is not going your way, you get a little bit annoyed because you know what you can achieve and when it doesn't quite come off and you're not quite performing, that's a frustrating place to be.
Q. You mentioned you've had a few upanddowns, but when you got here again, did you feel that you've got a new spring in your step, as if maybe some weight was lifted off your shoulders?
DANNY WILLETT: I haven't been back. It's been too busy. It would have been nice to come back and play a few holes through the year, but I've not been able to.
Coming back Saturday, we drove down Magnolia Lane and we came and just walked about nine and hit a few shots and it was really nice. It was calm and there was nobody here and there was maybe 20 members and a couple of pros playing. It was nice and serene to walk around. We dropped a few balls down where we hit, the chip on 17, and a couple other shots that we hit.
You do, not so much a spring in your step, you can't change your game like that just because you come in and you feel better about it. You've still got to work hard and you've still got to make good golf swings.
Definitely the feelings of being back are ones that are happy. It's a great place to be. Obviously, we have got some great memories around here. It's nice to be back and we've had a few days of good work. So like I said in previous interviews, it's now trying to get the game to where I can get back in positions and hopefully do it again.
Q. Just a quick follow. You said you hit one or two of the shots that you remember from last year. Maybe the one on 16?
DANNY WILLETT: No, the pin was front left, so we didn't try it. The wind was different so there was no point.
We hit a chip on 17, hit the drive off 13 to actually see if I could do that again. And just, it was nice. Again, I said to John, we wouldn't have really had to play. Just to walk it would have been nice, when no one was there and just to, you know, walk down the tee on 11 and you walk up to the crest of the hill and it is a magical place to be. So just to be able to go there and throw a couple balls down and hit a couple of putts and a few chips and laugh about what happened 12 months ago.
Q. You're only the second English winner here in 20 years after Nick had done it, but there are a record 11 Englishmen in this field. Do you sense, or would you be surprised if maybe your win might kick the door down for like a new golden age of English golf?
DANNY WILLETT: I think golf in England is in great hands at the moment. You know, it's been passed down from obviously Nick to Westy and Poults and Donald and Casey and Rosey, and now I think you're seeing the new wave of guys kind of my age and then even younger than myself. Obviously you've got Sully, and you've got Tyrrell that's been playing some great golf. You've got Fitzy who played nicely here last year. I don't think you'd be surprised at all to see the guys playing great in World Golf Championships and on the PGA TOUR and on The European Tour.
So I don't think it will be long before you see the guys starting to step it up again in major championships. You know, at the end of the day, all you've got to do is come here and play good golf. We showed that last year. Doesn't really matter who you are; as long as you come with a golf game that's in shape to win and as long as you can handle the situation, then you've got a chance to do it. I'm pretty sure you'll be able to see some of the guys do it over the next few years.
Q. What number did you register this year and will you watch a video of the closing holes of last year to get yourself in the mood before going off on Thursday?
DANNY WILLETT: I don't think you've got to get yourself in the mood to come and obviously tee it up around Augusta. Obviously the same No. 1 spot for defending champion, which is nice. We were slightly longer this year than we were last year.
No, I mean, like I said, the same No. 1 spot to go along with all the history there is at Augusta, you save the No. 1 spot for the defending champion, you get the No. 1 badge. Everything they do here is first class. Like I said, to come back and to be in that position and to be welcomed as we have been has been amazing.
So I don't think we need to watch anything in particular. Obviously all the shows that have been on BBC and SKY have been amazing. I've watched them because all it does is bring back memories of arguably what is my greatest week within golf.
Q. It is so different this year; is there anything that you can bring from last year, your approach, that you can take out on Thursday?
DANNY WILLETT: I think, I was looking at my books last night and I think Augusta, the more and more you play, you realize certain areas where you can't go. I think the whole experience of hitting shots under pressure and even if you didn't hit a couple of great ones, where you can get away with hitting it, obviously it's supposed to be windy here Thursday, Friday and I think experience really is going to come into this Thursday, Friday.
You're not going to have to hit perfect golf shots. You're going to have to leave it where you can get up‑and‑down or where you can 2‑putt from wherever that may be. I don't think it's necessarily watching, but making sure you're doing your homework and you know what you're doing.
Q. Do you feel an extra pressure when you become a Major Champion? And if so, can you describe what that feels like and has felt like over the past year?
DANNY WILLETT: I think there is. I tried to make a pact to myself not to, but it's difficult. Like I was saying earlier, you've achieved the greatest height in your game. You have got to the pinnacle. You've climbed Everest and you've put your flag in. Unfortunately, you've got to either climb down or stay up there, and it's incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time.
The pressure has obviously been more from myself. You get a little bit of outward pressure. And people, obviously, it's a public game. We're on the first tee on Thursday morning and there's millions of people watching, and if you don't hit it good, a million people see you hit it poorly and it's not nice. It's not a nice feeling to not hit good golf shots when you know what you can do.
So I think the pressure has been slightly different and the game has obviously not been as good as I wanted it to be these last 12 months, but we're still working hard and you know, if you work hard, there is that little bit of inevitability there sooner or later you have to kind of crack in and get back to where you've been.
I've always said, as long as the work ethic stays good, you keep ticking your boxes, then it's only a matter of time. Unfortunately, it's not kind of dropped into place yet but I'm still only 29 years old and I've got a long career.
Q. In terms of the practice you've had and the performances you've had of late, where would you say you are in terms of the level of your performance?
DANNY WILLETT: Practiced is world class at the moment. Just unfortunate it's not quite carrying over. Hit a couple of bad shots in there under pressure which have been not nice to do, and obviously still trying to work on aiming up that left side and move it back into the fairway. Unfortunately, over the last kind six months, we've aimed to the left and it kind of stayed there and then you react to a couple and all of a sudden you miss a couple right. It's just finding that balance.
Fortunately, around Augusta, we know our way around here pretty well and if we don't feel comfortable we can play to areas, like I said, where not everyone is going to be making birdie on certain holes and you can hit it into an area where you think you can make the easiest par from and then you kind golf from there.
The game plan may change this week depending on how the feelings are. Just have to wait and see.
Q. How much thought these past few months have you put into the Champions Dinner and what are your expectations for the evening?
DANNY WILLETT: I think the evening's going to be tremendous. I think it's 34 guys sat in a room. You know, obviously we see each other as fellow golfers, friends. But to be part of that group, you know, this is the 81st Masters. Obviously there's been a few champions that have passed away but there's only been 81 green jackets and a few of them guys have obviously got a few. To be able to sit in a room with the legends of the game, past and present, is going to be something special.
There's been a lot of thought going into it. Obviously we want to makeit so where hopefully the guys would eat what we're serving and it's too different. But me and my wife have done a lot of thinking about what we can do and how we can kind of embrace British culture, Yorkshire. My wife has taken some time to kind of put a little bit of something together for every champion that's at dinner tonight and hopefully they enjoy a little taste of Yorkshire.
The menu, I think, is pretty well set for what most people would have probably guessed. It's nothing really off the wall. It would have been what most people would have thought, if they were to come to Britain and sit in a pub on Sunday and have their dinner.
Q. Have you met all 34 or 33 champions that will be there?
DANNY WILLETT: Not yet, no. I think we've met a good few. There's a couple that we probably wouldn't have met. A couple of the older guys that obviously have come and they have played with their sons or friends and stuff and we have not quite bumped into them, because they're not practicing the same. They're here teeing it up on Thursday or they're just here to embrace the week as the past champion. So no, not everyone yet, but we obviously know them all.
Q. If you could complete the phrase: Being the Masters Champion is better than...
DANNY WILLETT: My wife's here‑‑ could get in trouble. It's better than anything within golf. Like I said, it is the pinnacle of our sport. Fortunately I'm in that group.
Q. A couple questions about Amen Corner. When you make the putt Sunday at 13 for birdie, do you have a recollection as to your awareness of the leaderboard at that moment and what that did for you, because obviously you can see the leaderboard at 14?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, the leaderboard on the left on 14 tee‑‑
Q. You knew you were 5‑down?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, we knew we were 5‑down making the turn. 10, 11, 12, were playing tricky enough with a little bit of wind swirling obviously down in the trees, as usual. And obviously pars through 10, 11, 12; you're going to pick shots up on guys, even if guys are playing well, you're probably going to pick shots up. And then yeah, we two‑putted 13 and we knew roughly where we were at at that time. I can't fully remember.
I would have thought that Jordan just about bogeyed 10, maybe, maybe not. I couldn't tell you what number he was on there‑‑ but timing‑wise, that's about right. But then I think even still that got it to within three, which is close enough but it's still where we started the day. But again, there's still a lot of golf left at that point.
Q. When you made the putt at 13, were you thinking, I'm in this thing?
DANNY WILLETT: Well, we still had to do a lot of chasing. We were still three back which means theoretically speaking you're still going to have to make four birdies. That's kind of where your head is at, is that you've still got to get four better than where you're at to overtake the score that he's on.
Again, it was a strange one last year. The expectations were if we do this and this and this then we have got a chance. It was more, let's put a good swing on it, and it really was a single‑shot process last year. We were in a fantastic place mentally and the gamewas obviously nice. The drive just trickled into the right side and obviously hit wedge in there really close on 14, as well, to make birdie.
We knew at that time we were getting somewhere near, but we knew 15 was going to be‑‑ obviously we didn't birdie 15, but with everything that went on, you know, when we got to the green on 15, kind of you know Westy was obviously second behind us.
Q. Scottish pie followed by roast beef followed by apple crumble is quite a heavy meal?
DANNY WILLETT: We were going to mix it up a little bit, but you can have a normal starter but it's right in the middle‑‑ just for the guys to have a taste really and see what it's like. I fully don't expect guys to finish everything. I'm not going to finish everything.
It was kind of basically just so that you could taste a bit of it all. We thought that was better than having a little light, you know, meal like a Sunday back at home, you go back home and you put your feet up and watch TV and probably fall asleep.
Q. Who have you not met that you're looking forward to meeting, and what would you like to talk to all these guys about?
DANNY WILLETT: I just think it's the fact that you've seen obviously with the Masters now here this week, and all the buildup and you see the coverage over the last however many years, since it's been televised and you see the shots the guys have hit, I think it's more going to be one where the guys talk through their experience and how they are feeling and how they handle things and what they did and it's just the whole, not‑‑ there's not many chances in life you get to sit in a room with that many players who win that many tournaments and are that good and to be able to talk about good experiences with each other.
You go to dinner every week with one or two guys and you talk about shots you hit but you're in a room there with 32 major champions, some of whom have won a countless number. I think it's just the fact that you're in and around‑‑ you're in and around greatness. You're sat in a room there with the best players of all time that have ever lived and I think that within itself is going to be brilliant.
Q. Who are you next to in the champions locker room?
DANNY WILLETT: I'm sharing with Woosie. They have got some fellow Brits together, which is nice. It's funny, I saw him on the golf course the other day and he said it's been a shame, he's had a nice clean locker for however many years and now it's full of other stuff in there.
Yeah, with Woosie and when I got sat in, I had a little walk around to see the names and the years that they won. Yeah, it's a pretty cool place to be.
Q. Is the chef confident of making a proper Yorkshire pudding from scratch?
DANNY WILLETT: He'd best be, otherwise I'll be in the kitchen making sure‑‑ if they go a bit flat, we're not going to be happy. I'm sure, I'm sure that he's been practicing since he came out.
Q. You honored Mr.Palmer by putting his umbrella on your bag a couple weeks ago. Have you thought about what you're going to express about him this evening?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, I've thought of a few words. People have been kind enough to help a little bit and have the idea of toasting with Arnie's favorite drink tonight. To not have him here, it's going to be a sad week.
And obviously missing the opening ceremonial tee shot. For years and years and years, I've got up in the morning on Thursday morning, even if you're teeing up in the afternoon, to watch the legends of the game hit the ceremonial tee shot. It's going to be different this year.
So I think there's going to be a lot of tributes on and around the golf course, and through the week, and you know, my way of doing it was I thought, well, we can try and do something fans and I'm sure there will be a few guys saying a few words. But why not just keep it simple and let's just toast with Arnie's favorite drink. I think that will go down quite nicely this evening.
Q. Would you give me just a thought about Amen Corner, the beauty of it, but also the strategy of it and is there a favorite spot that you have there? You mentioned the crest of the hill?
DANNY WILLETT: When I first got there two years ago, me and Johnny came and played a couple weeks before the tournament a couple years ago. It's just, you can't really describe it, until you've been fortunate enough‑‑ even as a spectator walking in the ropes, it's an amazing place. But to walk down the fairway and you get to the crest of the hill, probably you're going to have been 190 or 200 yards out from the green on 11 and it opens up, and it's a surreal place.
Obviously you've got the background and you've got the famous bridge and you've got 12 just tucked in there and obviously you have 13 tee tucked in the back. It's a beautiful sight.
But within that, obviously there's been a lot that's happened around that corner through 80 years of Masters Tournaments. It's an amazing place to be, but also one that through the week can cause people some real problems, as it has done over the years. We've been fortunate enough to play that stretch of holes pretty good, I'd say, over the last two tournaments.
But yeah, it's a beautiful place. Right down on the corner, 12 green, 13 tee, you have no spectators, no Patrons, sorry, down there. It's one of the quietest areas on the golf course. You can still hear obviously all the crowds from around, but to go back out there on the corner on 12 and 13, away from everybody, it is really a nice place to kind of just gather your thoughts and kind of look out there over the rest of the golf course.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
End of FastScripts