Danny is the daddy
Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, not only consolidated his position in the field for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but for the first time he moved ahead of his likely Great Britain team-mate, Justin Rose in the Olympic Rankings.
New dad Willett, who profited from Jordan Spieth’s collapse over the back nine at Augusta, continued his rapid ascent towards the top of the men’s professional game by winning his first major title in the week when it was announced that the winner of the gold medal in Rio will gain access to all the majors in 2017.
The Englishman moved up from 11th to ninth on the Olympic Rankings as Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, slipped from ninth to tenth.
The upward trajectory continued for Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello (16th from 17th) while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama edged up one spot from 13th to 12th. A fine week, also, for the Dane, Søren Kjeldsen, brought him within reach of the top 20 in 21st place (from 24th).
At the top, it is a case of ‘as you were’ with Jason Day, Spieth and Rory McIlroy occupying the first three positions on the Road to Rio.
“I can’t put it into words. To win golf tournaments on the PGA and European Tours is what we dream of doing. It’s what you practice for and it’s what you play for. You dream about these kind of days, but to actually be sitting here with a green jacket on is still mind‑boggling.” Danny Willett.
“We believe the game’s visibility will be dramatically elevated by the global platform that only the Olympics offer. New audiences from all over the world, some for the very first time ever, will be exposed to our great sport and come to know and appreciate the amazing athletes and heroes in golf.” Billy Payne, Chairman, Augusta National, announcing that the Olympic Gold Medallist will be invited to all majors in 2017.
It was a quiet week off for the women as the men fought over the Green Jacket. However Lydia Ko, No.1 in the Olympic Rankings, savoured her own major victory in the previous week’s ANA Inspiration, by wearing the traditional Augusta boilersuit and caddying for Kevin Na in the Par 3 contest as a curtain-raiser for the Masters.
Ko, who sits on top of the Rankings ahead of Korea’s Inbee Park and American Lexi Thompson, was also recognised by the Golf Writers’ Association of America as the female Player of the Year for 2015.
However, the teenage Englishwoman, Charley Hull, who finished tied second in the first women’s major, is now the third highest rated European at 15th on the Olympic Rankings.
“I think it will be a buzz to say you’ve played in the Olympic Games and you’re an Olympian. Hopefully to come away winning something would be great. It’s not like it’s a team event, but you feel if you come away with a medal you are putting it towards the whole GB thing.” Charley Hull, on BBC.