Darren Clarke tells Danny Willett: Turn off your phone and enjoy yourself

New Masters champion Danny Willett aims to enjoy spending time with his son, Zachariah, before getting back to business. Picture: PA
New Masters champion Danny Willett aims to enjoy spending time with his son, Zachariah, before getting back to business. Picture: PA
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Danny Willett is ready to deal with the soaring expectations that come with a Masters green jacket, as soon as he gets round to picking up his clubs again.

Willett claimed his first major championship at Augusta earlier this month, seeing off Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood by three shots in a thrilling final round.

His life changed in an instant, with doors opening to the Olympics and the Ryder Cup this year as well as a career-best world ranking of number nine.

The 28-year-old Yorkshireman has also agreed to join the PGA Tour, which awarded him a five-year exemption on Tuesday lasting to the end of the 2020/21 season.

And when he takes the field at the Players Championship in Sawgrass on May 12 he will do so with a target, rather than a green jacket, on his back.

“People will look at you in a new way now, expecting you to be brilliant every time you peg up,” he told Press Association Sport on a visit to Rotherham Golf Club, where he is an honorary member.

“You never know exactly how you’ll deal with that until you’re in the situation, but I know I’ll have to prepare really well to give myself the best chance to play well.

“I realise that is golf: one week you can go from winning the Masters and the next you can be shooting 85 quite easily.

“But I’m looking forward to the Players Championship, it’s a great event and it’s back in America with fantastic crowds.

“I’ll still be trying to push forward every time I play.

“I’ve been able to put myself among some of the most famous names ever in golf, people who’ve won that green jacket, and there’s a lot of great players who’ve never managed to win a major.

“But as a person you want more and more of the things that make you feel good and I’ll be working extremely hard to put myself in those sort of situations again.”

Although Willett is eager to knuckle down to the hard work of maintaining his new status, he is more than happy to ease himself into the challenge.

He has not hit a ball in anger since his dramatic triumph - only laying hands on his golf bag at Rotherham for a photo opportunity.

And far from being encouraged to get back to the range, he has been advised to enjoy his time off with wife Nicole and newborn baby Zachariah by the likes of 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.

“You’ve got to give it a couple of weeks before you touch the clubs again,” he said.

“A few people have shared their wisdom on that. Paul told me it took him six weeks after the Open to get back to normality

“Darren texted me and said ‘congratulations’ but he was one of the first to say ‘turn your phone off, enjoy yourself and make sure you stay fresh’.

“It’s been really nice to keep away from the clubs and spend time with Nic and Zach before seeing if I still know how to grip the club and swing it!”