Danny Willett inching closer to number one goal

08 Feb 2016 16:23

When Danny Willett said in November his ultimate goal was to become world number one, the news was somewhat lost in the background of his battle with Rory McIlroy to end 2015 as European number one.

And it would also be fair to say that reaching top spot looked a long way off given the way Jordan Spieth had won the Masters and US Open, Jason Day's record total in winning the US PGA Championship and the return to fitness of McIlroy in time to win the Race to Dubai for the third time in four years.

But it also cannot be denied that Englishman Willett keeps moving closer and closer to achieving his dream, with his latest European Tour title in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic lifting him to a career-high 13th in the rankings.

"It's taken me a lot longer to get to where I am in the world than I was hoping," said Willett, who would have been 12th in the rankings if not for Hideki Matsuyama's play-off victory over Rickie Fowler in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. "But the ultimate goal is to get to number one, otherwise I wouldn't be playing this game."

Willett certainly has the credentials after enjoying a stellar amateur career which included beating McIlroy in the first round of the Amateur Championship, winning the English Amateur title and playing alongside McIlroy - and Dubai runner-up Andy Sullivan - in the 2007 Walker Cup.

The 28-year-old turned professional in 2008 and gained his card via the qualifying school the same year, but it was not until 2012 that he claimed his first victory, defeating Marcus Fraser in a play-off for the BMW International Open.

An ongoing back injury contributed to winless campaigns in the next two years before Willett took his game to another level with victories in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and Omega European Masters, as well as a share of sixth place in the Open at St Andrews.

Whether the former world number one amateur can achieve the same distinction in the professional game remains to be seen, but the son of a Sheffield vicar is certainly moving in the right direction.

:::::::::::::::::::::::

There was more good news for English golf on Monday with the announcement that tyre manufacturer Bridgestone will be the title sponsors of a Challenge Tour event, official partners of the revived British Masters and also create a new amateur event.

The Bridgestone Challenge will take place at Heythrop Park from August 25-28 and marks the return of the European Challenge Tour to English soil for the first time in four years.

Challenge Tour director Alain de Soultrait said: "We are delighted to be able to partner with Bridgestone and are excited to be bringing the Challenge Tour back to England, aided by the support of England Golf.

"The Challenge Tour offers the best way for talented young golfers to develop their professional game and a large number of our recent success stories have been English players.

"Major champion Justin Rose and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter both came through our ranks, while Tommy Fleetwood and Andrew Johnston both finished top of the Challenge Tour Rankings in recent years.

"The commitment Bridgestone are showing to encourage the growth of the game in England will hopefully lead to similar success stories in future years and there is no better place for talented youngsters to come and be inspired than the Bridgestone Challenge in August."