Former Masters champion Danny Willett will enjoy two new experiences when he makes his European Tour return in the 2020 ISPS HANDA UK Championship at The Belfry.
The Englishman’s wife Nicole will make her caddying debut on Thursday as her husband gets a first competitive taste of a venue which has staged four Ryder Cups and last hosted the British Masters in 2008, the year Willett turned professional.
“It’s nice to see some more familiar faces and get back to the European Tour,” said Willett. “I have my wife on the bag this week so we’re in our own little bubble so it should be good fun.
“Sam’s worked a lot and has been away from his friends and family a lot. He has done six-week stints in the USA with isolating both sides. This week is one where I said, you know what, my wife and I haven’t had more than two hours alone in seven months. So I said we’ll use this to have a bit of time together on our own. With everything being pretty strict over here with the bubble I thought it would be a good decision to have her.”
Willett’s only experience of The Belfry prior to this week was as a teenage spectator during the practice rounds for The 2002 Ryder Cup, but if the course and caddie are not what the 32-year-old is used to then there will at least be plenty of familiar faces in the field, including his playing partners in World Number 30 Bernd Wiesberger and four-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace.
“You know what I’ve never played this course before,” he said. “I came here years and years ago to watch the practice rounds for The Ryder Cup. I came with my very first teaching professional Peter Bore from Burley. He brought a few juniors down for a few hours on one of the practice days, and that is it.”
Meanwhile Lee Westwood will be hoping to put his course experience to good use this week. The 47-year-old was part of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team at The Belfry in 2002 and captured the 2007 British Masters at the same venue, before being pipped by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño in a play-off the following year.
“I’ve always felt that The Belfry is a golf course that suits the way I hit it. It’s a little bit tighter than it used to be. Everything has grown up a bit more, the golf course has definitely matured. It’s a good test, with a bit of a breeze there are some tricky shots out there. There is a lot of water on this golf course and a few intimidating shots.” – Lee Westwood
Germany’s Martin Kaymer finished tied for 21st here during his rookie season in 2007 and the two-time Major winner will be looking to improve on his record at the Sutton Coldfield course. He is joined by Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal and Romain Langasque of France, with the latter hoping for back-to-back victories after claiming his maiden European Tour title at the ISPS HANDA Wales Open last week.
“I’ve been working quite a bit on my golf – sometimes maybe a little too much,” said Kaymer. “When I played the PGA Championship it was a hard week. I started off well but had a few issues with the body, hadn’t played in four months. The will is there. I’m looking forward to playing competitive golf again, especially here on the European Tour, the home of my golf where everything started. It’s nice to be here at The Belfry this week.