St. Andrews hero Danny Willett: The man for the big occasion but a conundrum for punters

The Englishman has produced a series of high-profile wins in the last five years but those who like a bet have often been caught by surprise due to his inconsistency.

Anyone keeping only half an eye on Danny Willett over the last five years could be forgiven for presuming that he'd been a regular inside the world's top 25 since winning the Masters green jacket in 2016.

After all, since that victory at Augusta National, he's landed the prestigious season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW Championship at Wentworth, and now the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship trophy at St. Andrews.

Willett hit 9th in the world rankings when he won the Masters in 2016 but heading to Scotland last week he was down at 164th.

So how come he was that low if he keeps winning big?

The answer is that the man from Sheffield doesn't do much between those money-spinning wins, a problem he acknowledged after landing his eighth European Tour title with victory at the Home of Golf on Sunday.

Willett, who closed out victory on his 34th birthday, said: "It's magical. On British soil with everyone here, it's been a great week.

"It's been a couple of years of average stuff again. I seem to do this a lot actually, go up and down.

"To win here, to be British and to be able to win on British soil, to win at the Home of Golf, this is a very special one. Especially after how the last kind of year and a half has been for everyone involved. Especially for us, we've struggled a little bit with things.

"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.

"Doesn't matter where it is, who it's against, it's just a question of if the game is in shape. When it is, we're all right."

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The victory vaulted Willis 63 spots up the world rankings to 101st although that still seems way too low given his reputation for landing elite tournaments.

However, it's not his worst position over the past few years.

So, is Willett a friend or foe of the punter?

On the one hand, he wins big events at big prices, rewarding those who keep the faith.

On the other, he's a hard man to catch right, often popping up when belief may have been lost.

Perhaps the solution is to ignore his form and just back him at hefty odds in top-class tournaments.

He'll miss the cut in plenty but might just land you the jackpot.

Here, Planet Sport looks at Willett's highs over the last five years, starting with his memorable Masters win.

2016 Masters

Form coming in: 28-22-3-45-1-54

Previous tournament form: T38 on debut in 2015

With just one previous go around Augusta National, a victory on his second appearance seemed far-fetched and he was available at a three-figure prices in the build-up.

However, his form in 2016 was impressive. He'd won the Dubai Desert Classic and also finished third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Florida just three starts earlier.

Willett was 12th in the world rankings when he teed off so it wasn't quite the surprise that many think. History has him down as a shock winner but, on form and ranking, he wasn't.

2018 DP World Tour Championship

Form coming in: 50-7-23-MC-MC

Previous tournament form: 50-4-21-26

Willett suffered injury and loss of form after his Augusta win and as the 2018 season reached its conclusion there wasn't much light at the end of the tunnel.

He'd managed a seventh place in the Turkish Airlines Open two starts earlier but that had been his only top 10 in the previous 12 starts and in 2018 as a whole he'd missed 13 of 25 cuts.

As for course form, he'd done well there previously, sitting second at halfway in 2014 and finishing fourth in 2015. He'd not qualified in 2017.

Willett teed off in Dubai way down the world rankings at 276th. Four days later he was back inside the top 100.

2019 BMW PGA Championship

Form coming in: MC-24-48-6-MC-12

Previous tournament form: MC-58-3-38-63-32

Willett had started the year off missing six of his first 10 cuts and didn't register a top 10 until June's Canadian Open.

That run included a missed cut at Augusta although he then found a spark with tied 12th in the US Open and tied sixth in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

When he got in the hunt at Wentworth - a venue where he'd placed third in 2016 and fifth on debut in 2010 - Willett showed his ruthless ability to get it done when in the heat of battle by firing a 67 to win by three.

That victory jumped him up from World No. 60 to 31st.

2021 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Form coming in: MC-71-MC-MC-33-MC

Previous tournament form: Runner-up 2010, 5th 2012, 26th 2019

After finding his game again in 2019, Willett's form drifted once more.

He headed into the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the back of three missed cuts and a tied 71st at Wentworth in his previous four starts.

His only top 10 of the calendar year had come at the low-key Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship back in March.

And yet he managed to pull off his party trick again.

As with his wins at Augusta, the Earth Course and Wentworth, he was in the hunt from day one and made his move on the weekend to get the job done.

If picking him out before a big event seems too difficult, at least punters should have learned by now that he's a great man to have onside when having an in-running bet. If he's high on the early leaderboard, get ready to pull the trigger.

As he proved again at the Alfred Dunhill Links, when Willett gets a sniff he remains one of European golf's best closers.

And that ability to focus most when the stakes are highest means the yet-to-be-announced 2023 European Ryder Cup skipper would welcome Willett on the team with open arms.

READ MORE: Five reasons why Europe can win the 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy

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