Birthday boy Danny Willett buried a golf bag full of off-course heath issues to pocket a cool €676,337 first prize cheque in brilliantly capturing the 20th anniversary Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews.
A packed crowd gathered around the 18th green and spilled onto the last fairway of the famed Old Course to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the 34-year-old Englishman who won by two shots with a closing 68 for an 18-under par tally. It is Willett’s eighth European Tour success and a first in just over two years while it’s a first in Scotland finishing clear of Sweden’s Joakim Larergren (66) and former double Dunhill winning Tyrrell Hatton (67).
Willett, a father of two, was near in tears after his victory. He said: “Hearing everyone sing ‘Happy Birthday’ was great and that has to be a first on the Old Course. “It’s just great to win again because it has been a very unfortunate last eight months, really. Every time the game feels like it’s been in a nice place, we’ve had a couple of things, issues with health, just things that you can’t really avoid. “We’ve had COVID, wisdom teeth problems, appendix issues, they’re not things that — they are just things, and they seem to have knocked us back a peg or two, and never really been able to get the momentum going in.
“This one, for everyone watching, this seems quite out of the blue, but the practice I’ve been doing at home and the inner belief we have every time we get in and out of position to do something was proven again.
“Like I said before, it doesn’t matter where it is, who it’s against, it’s just a question if the game is in shape. When it is, we’re all right”. And it’s not lost on Willett that the next time he returns to Scotland it will be next July for the 150th Open Championship. “Yeah, I’ve played The Open here, I played with Zach Johnson, actually, when Zach one, and we finished sixth that year”, said Willett. “I like the golf course. I enjoy the setup for The Open. This week, I’ve not done that great because usually the scoring is low and the weather has not been as bad; this week the scoring was low and the weather was still pretty bad. So we just played some good golf and got in a nice position”
However, eight closing pars robbed Willett and his famed Seminole Golf Club partner, Jimmy Dunne robbed the duo of the team prize that was won in a countback by Belfast’s Michael Hoey and playing partner, Maeve Danaher and wife of Ireland’s Jerry McManus.