Danny Willett gave himself the perfect birthday present with victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on Sunday.
The 2016 Masters champion went into the final round at St Andrews with a three-shot lead and carded a 68 to get to 18 under and win by two from fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton and Joakim Lagergren of Sweden.
Willett extended his lead to four in the early stages and – while he was briefly reeled in by Richard Bland – birdies at the ninth and 10th handed him a three-shot advantage once more and eight pars on the difficult closing stretch saw him close out a first victory in two years.
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Following his triumph at Augusta National, Willett slipped to 462nd in the world before winning two of the European Tour’s elite Rolex Series events in 2018 and 2019.
This season he has struggled with coronavirus, wisdom teeth problems, appendicitis and a hernia but he has once again bounced back to win his eighth European Tour event and is set to move back into the world’s top 100.
An emotional Willett, who turned 34 on Sunday, described his win on British soil as “magical”.
“It’s been a very unfortunate last eight months, really,” he said. “Every time the game feels like it’s been in a nice place, we’ve had a couple of things, issues with health, just things that you can’t really avoid.
“Covid, wisdom teeth, appendix … they seem to have knocked us back a peg or two and we’ve never really been able to get the momentum going in.
“For everyone watching, this seems quite out of the blue, but the practice I’ve been doing at home and the inner belief we have every time we get in and out of position to do something was proven again.”
The Alfred Dunhill Links is played over three courses, at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, with the final round taking place at St Andrews after the cut.
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