Willett embracing new life as dad, Masters champion

By Ryan LavnerMay 10, 2016, 8:12 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – First-time major winners are supposed to bask in the glory of their accomplishments, to vacation in tropical locales, to chug anything and everything out of the trophy. But someone forgot to tell Danny Willett.

Sure, over the past four weeks he has enjoyed the spoils of winning the Masters, but only when he’s not auditioning for a role in the next "Daddy Day Care" movie.

Seriously, when Willett was asked Tuesday about the most interesting thing that’s happened to him over the past month, he offered this:

“Changed a lot of nappies.”

No, sorry, we must not have been clear: The most interesting thing that’s happened.

“That is interesting,” he said with a smile. “Depends on what he’s doing.”

Willett, 28, became a father for the first time in late March, and it was Zachariah’s early arrival that allowed the Englishman to play in the year’s first major. Willett was the last man to enter the tournament, and he also was the last one to leave, after he shot a flawless 67 in the final round and took advantage of Jordan Spieth’s missteps on the back nine.

The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos

When he flew back home to England two days later, Willett was mobbed by fans and cameramen eager to congratulate Britain’s first Masters champion in two decades. The media crush continued once he arrived home – when taking out the garbage, he noticed paparazzi camped outside his house.

It was his first glimpse into a life that is forever changed by his Masters victory.

Though Willett was at one point the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, he has climbed the rankings with relative anonymity, known only by the most ardent golf fans, especially here in the States.

Now, he said, “you can’t go and have a nice quiet drink with the missus. At nighttime you get people asking for pictures, autographs. It comes with the territory. You can’t really complain about signing a few autographs and taking a few pictures, because you’ve just won the Masters.”

Fortunately, his home life has proven to be plenty humbling.

“Coming back down to reality was literally the first day you get back home, you open the door, (wife) Nicole’s there, and the dog jumps up and licks you and you’ve got your little man to change,” he said. “That was straight back down to reality, just being a dad and a husband.”

Willett has watched the final-round replay only once, his first night home. He settled on the couch with a cold beer in his hand, his wife and dog nearby, and the green jacket hanging on the door.

“It’s still not sunk in, to be honest,” he said. “I could still re-watch it now and we could still smile with the shots that we hit and how things unfolded.”

Willett doesn’t wear the green jacket much, or not as often as we’d probably think. He’ll slip it on for interviews. Photo shoots. Sponsor outings. The jacket travels with him, in case he’s booked for some fancy dinner that he wasn’t invited to before. “I don’t want to get it dirty or spill anything on it,” he said.

Since arriving at Sawgrass, Willett has received polite congratulations from his Tour brethren. A stack of flags awaits in his locker, ready to be signed for various charity outings.

The next phase of his career begins Thursday, when he looks to knock off a month’s worth of rust at one of the most demanding tests in golf. Since the Masters, Willett has played 18 holes only once, last Saturday. He’s been busier than anticipated.

Willett had always planned to take a few weeks off after Augusta, to reset before a busy summer schedule, to get away and spend time with his family. But, he said, “it hasn’t really been the quiet four weeks I was expecting.”

No surprise there. Life is different now.

Now the ninth-ranked player in the world, Willett is a virtual lock for both the European Ryder Cup team and England’s Olympic squad. He figures to be judged harshly by what he does next, how he backs up his major breakthrough, but he seems unfazed by the added expectations.

“I’ve got my own set of expectations of what I want to do for myself,” he said, “so I’m not really too fussed about what everybody else thinks. I’m trying to do my bit.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

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Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm