Ups and downs . . .
Danny Willett finds glare of the spotlight can be a little too bright in aftermath of Masters victory
THAT little gold chalice known as the Ryder Cup is only 17 inches high and nine inches wide but it doesn’t half overshadow things wherever it gets plonked down.
It was at Wentworth yesterday as Darren Clarke, Europe’s skipper, unveiled his first three vice-captains for the biennial bunfight with the USA. The whole camera-clicking palaver dunted the second round of play in the BMW PGA Championship so far into the background it ended up having about as much profile as the Surrey & Berkshire Inter County Stableford.
It was all fairly quiet on the West Course front but the day had started with plenty of roars as Danny Willett, the Masters champion, thundered to the turn in 29 blows, the lowest in this championship’s history.
At that point, the 28-year-old Yorkshireman, who picked up six birdies in an explosive seven holes from the third, was five shots clear and motoring along like one of the tournament sponsor’s high-powered marques. His homeward journey, though, was as shoogly as a drive in this correspondent’s jalopy. “It all mingled into one big pile of s***,” said Willett after his eventful four-under 68 for a 10-under left him in a three-way tie at the top with YE Yang and Scott Hend at the halfway stage of the European Tour’s flagship event
Three bogeys in a row from the 15th, as well as a ticking off from the referee for slow play, did little to lighten Willett’s mood on a turbulent inward half. After a guddle in the trees on 17, his raking approach to the 18th, which set up an eagle opportunity and eventually spawned a birdie, ensured the topsy-turvy round ended on a high note. “After that bogey on 17, I just walked a bit slower to the next tee and gave myself a good talking to,” he said.
Like that aforementioned Ryder Cup, Willett is now very much in the spotlight. That’s all part of being a major champion. “Everything you do is being watched and you have to mind your Ps and Qs which I’m sometimes not good at,” he said. “I used to have nice, quiet little practice sessions on my own but now there’s always a camera behind me.”
Scott Hend and Y.E. Yang were also behind Willett on the course and, by the end of the day, they were level with him at the summit. The well-travelled Hend, aiming to become the first Australian to win the PGA title in 26 years, eagled the 18th in a 69 while Korean veteran Yang picked up a stroke on the last in his three-under round as the leading trio finished a stroke ahead of Jaco Van Zyl and four in front of fifth-placed Jorge Campillo. There wasn’t much to shout about on the home front – apart from Lawrie’s Ryder appointment of course - but Scott Jamieson had plenty of reasons to be cheerful as he ended a run of four successive missed cuts with something of a flourish.
A hole-in-one on the 10th galvanised his second round and he finished with a one-under 71 for a one-under 143 and qualified for the weekend with a couple of shots to spare on the same mark as countryman David Drysdale.
The reward for the third ace of his career wasn’t too shabby. He was handed the keys to a shimmering BMW M2 worth something in the region of £44,000. Or about the same amount of money he has earned on the European Tour this season.
“I was one-over at the time so it was very, very timely,” said Jamieson, who was playing in the penultimate group of the day and was one of five Scots from an original entry of11 to make the cut.
And what does he currently drive? “A Mercedes,” he replied in front of
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET: Danny Willett discovers that he has plonked his ball right into the undergrowth as his second round begins to unravel