Willett gunning for top European Tour spot

Joy Chakravarty 20:45 02/11/2016
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Willett, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion this year, had led the Race to Dubai since winning the Masters in April, before Open champion Henrik Stenson overtook him with his tied second place finish in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Sunday.

Willett was hampered by what he called his “worst event on Tour” as he finished 75th in the 78-man field with a 14-over par score. Stenson banked a cheque of $787,000, which translated to a lead of 261,387 points on the top of Race to Dubai.

With two of his nearest rivals not competing in Turkey – Stenson never entered the tournament and is resting before NedBank Challenge and DP World Tour Championship, while No3 Rory McIlroy pulled out in the last minute – Willett now has a chance to reclaim the lead.

“This is a pretty big week. It gives me a chance to either close that gap or hopefully leapfrog Henrik again and make it really interesting coming down to the last two events,” said Willett.

“We’ve been leading it for a long, long time and unfortunately last week I had probably my worst event on Tour. It was one of those things where anything that could go wrong, did go wrong and I didn’t play great.

“It’s unfortunate that Henrik jumped above us but we were never going to win the Race to Dubai on the amount we were on. We always had to bump it forward and that’s still the aim. Hopefully the golf game gets a little better and we just keep working forward.”

Willett is clearly striving to reach the level of form which won him the Masters, but he revealed he had to make some changes in his swing, mainly to ensure that it eased the effect on his bad back.

The world No10 said: “April was obviously a pretty magical month, but you still try and push your game forward. At times, that leads to taking a few steps backwards and unfortunately it’s happened at a really bad time of the year.

“But the focus isn’t on the short-term goal. It’s a long-term goal and you’ve got to start making changes eventually and doing something different if you want to get better.

“We’re working incredibly hard in the gym, off the golf course, doing everything right and practising hard. But it’s just not quite going the way that I would have envisioned it going these last couple of months.

“It’s just tough when you’re trying to play golf and make swing changes at the same time. You always revert back to type and especially when you get under pressure.”

Willett has been paired with defending champion Victor Dubuisson and Andy Sullivan at 12:50 UAE time.

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