Willett looks to the future after Race to Dubai second place

Danny Willett
Danny Willett

Danny Willett is already looking to the new season after coming agonisingly close to winning the Race to Dubai.

The Sheffield golfer ensured he was in contention throughout the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai at the weekend, knowing a finish ahead of Order of Merit leader Rory McIlroy would see him finish as the leading European Tour player.

But two stunning rounds of seven under par and six under on Saturday and Sunday saw McIlroy win both the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai in one fell swoop.

Willett - in the knowledge his order of merit challenge had ebbed away - slumped from a promising fourth round start to bogey two of the last three holes and finish tied for fourth in the final tournament of the season.

Also finishing tied for fourth was fellow Sheffield golfer Matt Fitzpatrick, who secured a top 15 place in the Race to Dubai in his first season on the Tour.

Willett struggled to hide his disappointment at his final round performance but looked ahead to next season.

“I don’t really set targets for years but it’ll be just doing the same as we did this year,” he said.

“Working hard, doing all the right things, living right and doing everything we can to keep climbing the world rankings and put ourselves in contention for this again next year.”

The 28-year-old has enjoyed a phenomenal season, transforming from relative obscurity to a major contender in not just European but world golf.

He started the season 102nd in the world but finished inside the top 25. Two European Tour wins, an overnight leader at The Open and a Masters debut means the Hackenthorpe-born player can reflect on a superb year.

It began with victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa last December, ensuring he remained in the top two in the Race to Dubai rankings from the start of the season to the end.

Willett will next be in action at this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, starting on December 3.

He said: “I’m going to have a nice week up and then head down for the Nedbank.

“And just hope a few more things go our way.

“It’s the start of a new season so just get ready to go again.”

When he reflects on the DP World Tour Championship, Willett will no doubt think things did not go his way.

Barring a superb third round 67, his game rarely looked as complete as it has done during much of the season and ensured his challenge to McIlroy waned on the home straight.

After finishing the tenth on the final day with his round at four under par, Willett failed to make any further inroads and would bogey 16 and 17 to drop out of the top three.

He said: “We started the day quick like we wanted to but just hit a bit of a stale patch in the last few holes.

“We didn’t finish great but I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference any way.”

Though it was another high finish for fellow Steel City player Fitzpatrick, the youngster will no doubt have been left ruing a slow final round which denied him even better in Dubai.

The 21-year-old shot a two under par 70 on the final day. While it was his worst round of the weekend, it was the 20th round of his last 24 where he has carded 70 or under.

His performance at the weekend should be enough to secure a top 50 place in the world rankings by the end of the calendar year, which will hand him entry to the 2016 Masters in Augusta.

Fitzpatrick is a candidate for the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award which will be decided by a panel.