Although "there's not a day that goes by" when Danny Willett doesn't think about his Masters victory, playing golf in the weeks and months that followed was a struggle, he wrote in a European Tour blog post published Wednesday.
"[We] spend so much time practicing for those moments, working on our swings, those chip shots, pressure putts, how to deal with being in contention mentally, but no one ever really prepares you for what happens next, after you achieve greatness like that," Willett wrote. "Ultimately I'll be able to look back on that day and be thankful for all that it has given me, but it's not always easier dealing with the aftermath."
Willett's victory at Augusta shot him into the top 10 in the world, and he posted several strong results on the European Tour in the months that followed. But 2017 was a struggle; since the Honda Classic in late February, he has played 15 stroke play events, MCing or WDing from nine of them while failing to crack the top 50 in any others.
Willett's piece is a revealing look at the struggles that can come not from getting to the top of the game, but from trying to stay there. Several more takeaways:
On working hard without seeing results:
"The truth is very few people know the sacrifices I make to try and be the best golfer I can be. They don't know that I'll get up at 5.00am to get some practice in or hit the gym before my son wakes up at 6.30 and I need to help my wife with him.
"Golf is a strange sport. When you're playing well, it seems very easy but when you're struggling it feels like all the time on the range makes no difference out on the course."
On working with Sean Foley:
"I started working with Foles at the PGA Championship in August and approached it like an open book. I said I would change whatever he thought I needed to change to get better. I was open to change. For two or three months now we've looked at everything in my game and worked endlessly on getting better. I didn't play great at Quail Hollow but I had spells during that week, and hit one or two shots that showed me that what I am doing is working."
On support from his wife:
I know, for a while there, I wasn't a great person to be around. I'd spend 10 hours in a day working hard on my game and not getting the results and I'd come home in a bad mood and I just wouldn't be the person I wanted to be. Luckily, we have a great and honest relationship and she knows when to tell me to wind my neck in and get on with things and when to just give me space. Again, through everything over the last couple of years, the good and bad, my family have been amazing.
On pressure down the stretch at Augusta:
"I remember being on the 16th tee at Augusta and trying to get to the right page in my yardage book and my hands were shaking so much that I was just shuffling the pages. Jon and I spoke about it afterwards and had a laugh about it. He couldn't believe I was shaking so much but I think it helped him that I was as nervous as him! But by the time we chose the club and the shot, I was able to step up there and flush an eight iron right down the pin. I think nerves can be a good thing. As long as you can acknowledge that you're nervous because you're in a situation that you want to be in, it's about being aware of that and trying to seize that moment and trust what it is that you do."
On coming up short at the Ryder Cup:
Obviously that week didn't go the way I wanted, and that was due in part to the way I dealt with the pressure, based on the fact I wasn't hitting it as well. I wasn't able to match those nerves with the confidence that I could pull off the shots under pressure. It was difficult.
On where he wants to go from here:
All I can say is I'm working hard to ensure they go up. I know I've achieved something that 99 percent of players will never get to experience, but there is still a lot I want to do.
Read the entirety of Willett's post HERE.