Danny’s never been invisible

Danny Willett, who became the 2012 European Tour’s ninth first-time winner on Sunday, can hardly be called a come-from-nowhere ‘who’s he?’.

The 24-year-old Englishman, who stands 5ft 11in in his socks and weighs 180lb (83kgs), has a distinguished amateur history.

In 2006 he was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year during the two years he spent playing US College golf at Jacksonville State University.

In 2007 he won the English Amateur and represented Great Britain and Ireland against the USA in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down in Ireland and in March 2008, shortly before he turned professional, he found himself ranked as the No 1 Amateur in the world.

The surprise then, is not that he won his maiden European Tour title at the BMW International Open in Cologne on Sunday and in the process became the second youngest golfer behind Martin Kaymer to do it, albeit after a wet and windy four-hole play-off battle with Australian Markus Fraser, but rather, perhaps, that it took this Sheffield born-and-bred son of a preacher more than two years to achieve the feat.

Perhaps that’s because he is that good, but hasn’t believed it until now.

However, now that he has finally pulled off this important breakthrough, things could be different. They often are in the case of naturally gifted golfers seeking to build up the kind of self belief and confidence needed to win on a tour that is becoming more competitive by the year as more and more youngsters from around the world come into the game seeking their fortunes.

Even so, it was, nevertheless, touch and go on Sunday

Willett, led overnight, but after being reeled in by Fraser, he nearly saw his dream ended at the 18th when he drove his ball down the right of the fairway, saw it bounce off a cart path and end up behind a tree.

Somehow, though, his touch of class prevailed and he managed to pull off an amazing long hooked iron to land safely on the green and make his par.

It was only enough to make the play-off, but in the end, on the fourth play-off hole, it came down to a missed three-footer for par by Fraser to leave Willett with a gentle tap-in for victory.

In the meantime, though never before winning, Willett has not, at any time, been one of professional golf’s invisible men – even last year when he hit the most frustrating run of his career, managed only one Top 10 all season (7th at the Volvo China Open) and slipped out of the World’s Top 100 into the 200s, not too many months would go by without his name popping up on a top-10 leaderboard somewhere, even if only for a round or two.

His best seasons too date were 2009 and 2010

In 2009 he had eight top 10 finishes, the best of which were his two, tied-for-4th-place finishes at the Celtic Manor Wales Open and the Joburg Open.

In 2010 he was able to claim a best-ever finish of second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship among his five top-5 and seven top-10 finishes.

And now he is finally a winner which takes his Race to Dubai earnings this season to €567,293 and will probably hoist him back up the rankings from 204th to somewhere in the vicinity of 110.

This in his 106th European Tour event and it will give him his 3rd top 10 finish this year following his 7th and 3rd place finishes at the Africa Open and the Maybank Malaysia Open respectively.

Willett, who has only led once before going into the final round (when he finished third at the 2010 Australian Open), is the ninth first-time winner on the European Tour this year, the others being Branden Grace (Joburg Open), Jbe’ Kruger (Avantha Masters), Julien Quesne (Open de Andalucía Costa del Sol), Thorbjørn Olesen (Sicilian Open), Bubba Watson (The Masters), Bernd Wiesberger (Ballantine’s Championship), Ricardo Santos (Madeira Islands Open), Webb Simpson (US Open).

And in his fourth appearance in the BMW International Open with his previous best in this event being a tie for ninth in 2009, he follows Paul Azinger (1990), Peter Fowler (1993), Marc Farry (1996), Russell Claydon (1998), Martin Kaymer (2008) and David Horsey (2010) as players who have made the BMW International Open their first European Tour victory.

What’s in Danny Willett’s bag?

Everything, including his clubs and balls are from Callaway, the golf company that looks after him and, according to his own personal website, these include the following:

Driver: A RAZR Hawk Tour 9.5° with an RIP 60 X shaft
Fairway wood: A Diablo Octane Tour 18° with Aldila VS 70 X shaft
Hybrid: A RAZR Tour 21° with a Project X HC1 shaft
Irons: A set of X Forged 09, sizes 3-9 with X100 Superlite shafts
Wedges: X Forged Vintage, 52°, 56°, 60° with X100 Superlite shafts
Putter: An Odyssey Black Series Tour Designs #5 with 34in shaft
Balls: Tour i(z)