Pete Cowen: Willett Should Make A Clean Sweep Without Playing the Blame Game

It’s been an interesting few weeks in the world of golf, on and off the course. The situation with Danny Willett had been coming for a while and we agreed he does need a fresh pair of eyes on his game. But not just that – he needs a fresh approach throughout everything he’s connected with. So, rather than pick us out as being the problem, it’s really everybody and everything that’s the problem.

In reality, everybody should have gone. Not just me and Mike Walker.It should have been the physio, the putting coach, the management, everyone involved. Danny should have made a totally clean break from it all. His caddy parted ways with Danny earlier this year and then, all of a sudden, he wanted a fresh opinion on his game from ours, which is understandable. But if it’s everybody’s fault that Willett’s game is disappointing, then everybody should go. There’s no point picking out individuals to blame.

Logically, if everything is going wrong, then everything needs to change. His putting has not been not up to scratch, his fitness hasn’t been where it should be and it’s hard to coach any player when outside influences are affecting the player’s mind. That situation can be traced back to The Ryder Cup last year.

He had never hit shots as badly as he did in The Ryder Cup, and it was all after his brother wrote that ill-judged article criticising the American Ryder Cup supporters. Yes, Danny needed a fresh pair of eyes, but he really needed a clean break from everything.

‘Stenson’s return to form on the greens’

On the course there was a happy return to winning ways for Henrik Stenson. His win at the Wyndham Championship was a result of a return to form on the greens. He was playing well in the run-up, hitting the ball as well as ever, but not sinking enough putts to put himself in contention.

He was very, very good tee-to-green at the US PGA Championship, the week before the Wyndham. His Driving Accuracy was at 69.6% (ranked 19th) and Greens in Regulation (GIR) was 68% (8th) but it’s all got to come together to win and you need a bit of luck as well.

At the Wyndham he was 8th on Driving Accuracy and third in GIR, but the key statistic was that he was second in Strokes Gained-Putting – and that made all the difference as he held off young Ollie Schniederjans to win by one.

All the elements of your game have to be right to enable you to win. You need either somebody to fall by the wayside or you need a bit of luck. Justin Thomas had a bit of luck and now he’s a Major winner. Unfortunately, Hideki Matsuyama played poorly on Saturday and Sunday at Quail Hollow, otherwise he could have won by three or four shots, like he did the week before at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Technically, I quite like his pause at the top of his backswing. I help him with his short game and he does all our drills in the gym and on the range. If he’s in trouble he comes to me and we sort it out. He was struggling with his short game at Bay Hill in March and we had a short bunker and chipping session to straighten it out. I’ve told him he’s got to come to Dubai but we’ll see about that.

Louis Oosthuizen’s performance at Quail Hollow was encouraging. He’s getting there, slowly. He had a second-place finish at The Players Championship and a second at the US PGA Championship, so his game is getting back to where it should be.

‘Expectations that get in the way’

Matt Fitzpatrick has had a quiet year so far. It’s almost a reaction to a great year which happens to a lot of players. Expectations went up after last year – he made his Ryder Cup debut and won the season-ending DP World Tour Championship – and when the results aren’t coming in, it’s the expectations that get in the way. It can be a problem when he sees players like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, who are a similar age, winning Majors. It can have an adverse effect.

On a wider issue, I think the US PGA Championship moving to May is a good idea. It seems to be out on its own at the end of the run of Majors and is always seen as the weakest of the four Majors. It makes good sense to try to resurrect it a little bit.

For me, I would look at swapping the status of The Players Championship and the PGA, making The Players a Major. I know there are arguments for and against, but to be fair, the PGA is a weak tournament – although, obviously, people still want to win it.

The PGA always say that they’ve got the top 100 players competing there, but when you’ve got to give tee times to about 20 club professionals it’s never going to be the greatest field and it dilutes its stature somewhat.

With all this shuffling around and the US PGA Tour moving their FedExCup events earlier in 2019 to avoid the American Football season, the European Tour could strengthen their schedule at the back end of the season and entice more of the big names to play.

Moving the BMW PGA Championship to September will make it a better event because the course at Wentworth will be better conditioned.

The European Tour have an advantage at the start of the season with the Middle East Swing because a lot of the Americans don’t like playing on the West Coast of America where they’re on poa annua greens. So, going forward, the European Tour could bookend the start and end of the season very nicely with some big events and more top players.