Bad back hampers Danny Willett title defence

Danny Willett

Danny Willett

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Defending champion Danny Willett battled a bad back on a difficult second day at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

The Sheffield golfer was forced to have on-the-course treatment to get through his round at the Gary Player County Club after visibly struggling with a back issue.

Willett laid down on the sixth fairway to stretch before the European Tour physio administered treatment on the ninth tee.

By that time damage had been done to the 28-year-old’s hopes of retaining the Nedbank crown he won last year.

A double bogey six on the third, combined with bogeys on the second, fifth and seventh undid Willett’s five under par opening round by the eighth hole.

But after his treatment he immediately birdied the ninth and fired eight pars and a birdie on the back nine to close on -2 and a tie for 12th place.

His performance left him nine shots off leader Henrik Stenson who shot -5 on Friday to move to -11.

Like Willett, the day was not particularly kind to Matt Fitzpatrick who carded a +5 round of 77 to drop to two over for the championship.

The Hallamshire GC member did not make a single birdie on a difficult day all round.

He also missed out on the European Tour Rookie of The Year prize which was awarded to South Korea’s Byeong Hun An who collected the most prize money ever for a debutant during the 2015 season.

Fitzpatrick begins his third round at 8.21am on Saturday with Willett out at 8.43am.