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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Danny Willett pleased with progress after strong first day at DP World Tour Championship

Englishman rebuilding career after coming back from injury as he finishes with two birdies to add to five he nabbed earlier on Earth Course

Danny Willett ranked ninth in the world following his US Masters victory, but injury and a loss of form caused a slump down the standings. Getty Images
Danny Willett ranked ninth in the world following his US Masters victory, but injury and a loss of form caused a slump down the standings. Getty Images

Danny Willett continued to show signs of improvement on Thursday, opening the DP World Tour Championship with a 5-under par 67.

The 2016 Masters champion, winner at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic two months prior to his major breakthrough, posted the second-best score of the early starters at Jumeirah Golf Estates to briefly lead the field. Jordan Smith quickly carded a 66.

Willett ranked ninth in the world following his US Masters victory, but injury and a loss of form caused a steep slump down the standings. In May this year, the Englishman sat at world No 462.

However, three top 10s since have helped lift Willett back inside the top 300. In Turkey last month, he finished tied-seventh before a tied-50th at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City set him back a little.

On Thursday, though, Willett finished with two birdies to add to five he nabbed earlier on the Earth Course, taking him to top of the leaderboard in the final event on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

“Yeah, it is close,” Willett said. “It's a shame it's the last event of the season, it is. From June, July onwards, we were making better strides, and we could work harder and work longer and that's had a big impact.

“The longer you can work, the quicker your game is going to be and at first I was struggling. Now we're on track, and we're able to work a bit harder. I'm seeing the results quite nicely in practice and Turkey was nice to take it to the golf course.

“And last week at Sun City, obviously that place can drive you insane. I've won around there but you still stand on every tee thinking you can make a nine on every hole. It's a strange old week in Sun City.

"We got here and have the ball under nice control and movement is pretty good. Again, we're going to play 54 holes left to the year and just play until the bell goes and see where we finish.”

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