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Willett’s wonderful Wentworth week

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Danny Willett’s

Tony talked to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to look back on Danny Willett’s victory at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday:

“You can bet your bottom dollar that European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington was delighted to see that Danny managed to get across the line at Wentworth at the weekend.

It was a terrific performance by him especially after he fell from grace so dramatically following his win at the Masters in 2016. A couple of years in the doldrums certainly seem to have acted like a wake-up call for him and he’s battled his way back in superb style.

You can’t fluke it round Wentworth. That’s a proper test of golf round there. More power to Danny. He did a great job.

When you get a story like that, someone getting their career back on track after a mighty fall, it has an affect on the rest of the European players. It will serve as inspiration for a lot of them and that has to be good news for Padraig as the race to qualify for next year’s Ryder Cup team hots up.

It was also heart-warming to see American Billy Horschel’s reaction to playing at Wentworth for the first time. He said the experience was way beyond his expectations and it’s good to hear compliments like that from these guys who spend so much of their time on the road.

Jon Rahm again showed that he’s the real deal with a top performance. He’s one of the new young superstars in golf while Rory McIlroy rallied in style after he had to hole a four-foot putt to make the cut on Friday.

Finishing in the top 10 was no mean feat after opening with a 76 but we all know what an amazing talent Rory is.

Willett picked up about $1 million for his victory, roughly the same as Colombian Sebastian Munoz earned for his win on the PGA Tour on Sunday.

It must be great to be a top golfer these days because the money just keeps on rolling in. Look at Munoz. Not only has he won out of the blue and become an overnight millionaire, he gets a two-year exemption that means he automatically books a ticket to all the Majors.

That leaves the way clear for him to make untold riches and it’s truly staggering for someone like me to see how the game rewards the players these days. It seems a far cry from that time long ago when I was starting out.

It’s almost a fantasy world for the modern-day golfer. Dreams are coming true for these guys every single week. Good luck to them, I say, enjoy every second of it all while you can.

When I won the PGA Championship on the same course back in 1972, I picked up a cheque for £2,000. To give you another example of how things have changed, the player who finished third in the FedExCup last month made more money than Jack Nicklaus did in his entire career. What a stat that is!

In my early days on the tour we used to finish tournaments on a Saturday. I remember saying to the European Tour’s chief press officer George Simms, ‘Until we start finishing on a Sunday the prize money is never going to be up to much’. He laughed and said, ‘That will never happen’. But it did.

I used to play exhibitions on a Sunday with the likes of Peter Alliss, Neil Coles, Dave Thomas, Max Faulkner, Dai Rees and George Will. We would drive from wherever we had played on the Saturday and all we got was £40 apiece.

The opportunities for these young guns nowadays are endless and it makes me wonder how it’s going to continue developing in the next 20 or 30 years.”