Danny Willett is ready for a Green Jacket Party at The K Club as he prepares to make his first appearance in Europe as Masters champion at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation from May 19-22.
Along with McIlroy, the Englishman will be the headline act in a field which includes his compatriots Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood and defending champion Søren Kjeldsen, all of whom performed superbly at Augusta National last week.
Willett, who produced a brilliant bogey-free 67 in the final round at Augusta on Sunday to win his first Major by three strokes from Lee Westwood and Jordan Spieth, will be guaranteed an incredible reception when he steps on to the first tee at The K Club after his life-changing victory in the USA last week.
“The Irish Open is going to be awesome,” he said. “It’s a great event. Last year at County Down was pretty special, especially for me having played in the Walker Cup there in 2007. This year, we are at The K Club and it’s going to be a special week.
“Rory has done a magnificent job with the tournament, and what he is doing for the European Tour and golf in Ireland in general. I think with the field we are going to have there, amazing crowds as always and an iconic venue like The K Club, it’s going to be a brilliant tournament. I am really looking forward to making my first appearance in Europe there.”
It’s no secret that Willett is, justifiably, one of the most confident players in golf. Like McIlroy, when Willett produces his best he plays the game with verve as well as a swagger which suggests he can achieve as much as the likes of McIlroy, Spieth and current World Number One Jason Day.
Off the course, Willett remains confident but he is also grounded by a sense of realism and speaks with refreshing honesty. He does not yet believe he is at the same level as golf’s current ‘big three’, but is well aware that he is quickly becoming part of the conversation at the game’s top table.
“Guys like Rory, Jordan and Jason have achieved a bit more than me at this stage,” said Willett. “I still have a little way to go to be up there with those boys, but it’s a fantastic start and a big move in the right direction to start doing special things in the very biggest tournaments.
“I am looking forward to being part of that illustrious group of Major winners, which still sounds a bit odd to be honest, but I want to keep moving forward with my career and seeing what else I can achieve.
“I have no idea how good I can be. I don’t think you can ever really tell how good someone is going to be or what they are capable of. Before Sunday, people probably didn’t think I was capable of what I achieved.
“I am just going to keep doing what I am doing and ticking all the boxes that I know will improve me both as a person and as a golfer, and hopefully I can get into that position again. It’s a special feeling and one I want to feel a few more times.”
As well as Willett and McIlroy, Ireland’s other recent Major Champions, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, will also star at The K Club, alongside former Irish Open champion Shane Lowry, who made his own little piece of history at the Masters last week with a brilliant hole in one on the iconic 16th hole during Sunday’s epic final round.
Anyone wanting to catch the new Masters champion in action can purchase an advance ticket for the event at www.dubaidutyfreeirishopen.com. Tickets are priced at only €30 per day, with a season ticket costing just €70 for the entire four days.
A portion of all tickets sales this year will go towards the Rory Foundation, which was established by McIlroy in 2013 to help children live better lives by raising funds and offering support to children’s charities around the world.
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2016 is also supported by the Irish Government under the auspices of Fáilte Ireland and Sport Ireland.