Willett busy enjoying perks of being major champion

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Perks come with being a major winner, as Danny Willett is discovering.

Take last week, for example. The Masters champion started it in the Royal Box at Wimbledon watching Andy Murray and Roger Federer play, and ended it as a special guest at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. On Monday of British Open week, Willett was shooting penalty kicks at a soccer stadium near Royal Troon.

Now it's time for Willett to focus on his day job.

Since his win at Augusta National in April, Willett has played five events and had one top-10 finish — a third place at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He has missed the cut in his last two tournaments, the BMW International Open in Germany and the French Open.

Two days before the British Open, Willett said he has had a "brutally honest conversation" with himself as he looks to rediscover his form.

"You got to go back to basics and realize what got you there in the first place," Willett said. "Are you working out enough? Have you been putting enough time in? Have you been dedicating yourself properly? We've had a couple moments in the last month or so where we're trying to get back on track now, getting back up and working as hard and for longer hours than what we have done in previous months, previous years."

Not that he regrets getting out of the golf bubble from time to time, as he did Monday when he attended a promotional event that involved taking penalties and hitting balls from the stands at Ibrox — the home of Scottish soccer club Rangers.

Willett particularly enjoys mixing with other sports stars, finding out what makes them tick and how they handle competing at the top of their profession.

"Being in that environment, I think it puts a different spin on our sport and what we do and how hard we work," Willett said. "We get caught up in our own little bubbles at time. As golfers we travel the world and play week to week, traveling together, and very rarely do you get to see other people around in their working environment."

A former top-ranked amateur, Willett was always destined for the top in golf and he had his first real taste of going close at a major at the British Open last year at St. Andrews. Willett was second after two rounds after shooting 66 and 69 and then played the final round with Zach Johnson, who went on to lift the claret jug after a playoff.

"It was good to be able to see that first-hand and see how he handled the pressure," Willett said. "Just seeing how it unfolded and how he played was good for me and a learning experience."

Willett took that experience to Augusta this year, holding himself together after Jordan Spieth hit two balls into the water at No. 12 to become an unlikely winner of the Masters. Now he finds himself at the center of attention wherever he goes and the crowds are sure to be following him at Troon.

The 28-year-old Englishman said he spent "two or three" days in bed last week because of illness, but will be 100 percent by the first round Thursday.

"Being British," Willett said, "this is one you want to get your hands on."