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July 17, 2015

Danny Willett


MIKE WOODCOCK: We'll make a start. We'd like to welcome Danny Willett to the interview room. That's a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of The Open. Obviously a bit to go in the second round but you must be very pleased where you're sitting currently.

DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, two really good solid rounds of golf. I think probably the back nine is what's kind of done it with some really good, solid shots on the back nine and not really put ourselves in too much trouble and under too much stress. To be 2-under for that back nine is some pretty good golf.

Q. With the wind picking up now, would you expect that your position will be even stronger by the end of this second round with guys potentially falling back?
DANNY WILLETT: Well, Warren is obviously at 7-under, so obviously the margin now is two, but I feel that someone will probably go out there -- regardless of conditions, you still get a guy who jumps out of the field and can shoot a good score, greens being slightly softer, yeah, you've got to control your ball flight well and it's breezy, but there's ever a chance someone can go out there and probably overtake us.

Q. Danny, were you aware that no Yorkshireman has ever won The Open?
DANNY WILLETT: I've been told a few times in the last 20 minutes. I mean it's one of them things. Yorkshire is a big place, but when you consider the world it's probably quite small, so that's not really a surprise.

Q. As was mentioned, you're two shots clear at the moment at the top of the leaderboard, halfway stage of The Open? Are you pinching yourself about that at the moment or have you always believed that you've got the game to fire you into this kind of position at one of the biggest events in the world?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, I think it's a childhood dream and looking up there it's still a little bit surreal but something I'm going to have to get used to, otherwise no point in being up there. We're going to try and rest up and then try and go out for another good weekend and hopefully we can be up there in two days' time.

Q. You've just been looking at your last 10 scores at this place. What is it that brings the best of you around here?
DANNY WILLETT: It kind of suits a fader. You kind of hit it middle of the golf course and kind of fade it back down your fairway helps around here. Ball flight control, I've done pretty good around links golf courses throughout my career. We obviously played a lot as an amateur. I seem to kind of control the ball quite well, and you can hit different shots and kind of cut it against the wind or draw it against it to kind of make your distance play a little bit easier, and it's just one of them places. It lends itself to good golf. You play well, there's a good score out there and then obviously another six guys go out there and rip it up, shooting 62, 63, 64, and it's actually quite nice to come here for an Open Championship, and not be too dissimilar to how the Dunhill plays.

Q. As a former world sort of amateur No. 1, are you now fulfilling the expectations you always had being top of the leaderboard, competing for majors?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah. I mean, amateur and professional golf are very, very different. It put me in good stead. It made me believe that I could compete with the best of them, and I came out and obviously turned pro and it went relatively smoothly at first and then I had a year off with my back and stuff being out, and I think I said it after the match play that I'm at a stage where I'm able to train a bit harder and practise a bit longer so maybe you're seeing the benefits a little bit more. It's always a work in progress and it's nice that it's kind of come off this week.

Q. Can you give us a feel for how you found the experience of leading while you were actually out on the course? You were leading for quite a long time.
DANNY WILLETT: I don't think it's anything you can really work at. You can never really play that on any other stage apart from actually doing it. No, it was good fun. To see your name at the top of any leaderboard is good, especially when you're at the Open and your name is up top and you see the names behind you. I've said in other interviews it's something you need to embrace and you need to get used to, otherwise you're going to have a pretty tough weekend if you don't like being there.

Q. With the wind that's forecast for tomorrow, is this weekend going to be survival of the fittest?
DANNY WILLETT: It could be. Again, I said yesterday, it could be Armageddon today, and it was this morning. Luckily we didn't have to play in the rain. Then again, you don't know around this place, it could blow through. You wake up in the morning, it could be fine. It could be pumping. You're not really quite sure. Like I've said the last two days, I think the wind we've got at the minute is a good wind for St. Andrews, 20-, 30-yard wind, playable, you can certainly hit golf shots and it's not too ridiculous. Hopefully it stays this kind of strength, and by the end of the weekend I think you'll see a good leaderboard.

Q. How does it feel to have the hopes of Yorkshire and England on your shoulders at this point?
DANNY WILLETT: I'm relatively polished off with the English one. It took the pressure off us and I'm sure Yorkshire won't put too much pressure on me. It's good fun. Like I said, you can't look at that leaderboard, and yeah, you look at it and you're a bit nervous and whatever, you're bound to be, but it's actually fantastic. So I look forward to a good weekend.

Q. Have you received any messages of support from anybody?
DANNY WILLETT: I just had a text message off my mom really saying well done, you've made the cut (laughter.) I mean, I haven't read all of them yet. That was the one that sprung from my mind. Yeah, I'm sure there will be a few, I can feel my phone buzzing a little bit right now. Yeah, I'm sure there will be a few, but it might be a case tonight of turning the phone off and having a little bit of quiet time.

Q. There's probably a lot of Americans in this room, including myself, who are in the process of learning about you, so I wanted to see if I could help us out, maybe stuff you like to do off the course, life philosophies, favourite colour, anything you can kind of think of?
DANNY WILLETT: Colour? I'd have to think of that one for a while. I've dedicated my life to golf for a long time now. I got married a couple of years ago, so I'll have a couple cold ones back in the room. Back home we're just a normal couple, go for a walk, go out to the parents' for dinner, do normal things apart from practising and training a lot. So yeah, it's just a relatively normal ish life I'd say back home, and then obviously you come out here to the circus is the Tour and you go out week by week trying to compete.

Q. And the colour?

Q. Just clarify once and for all, your dad gets preferred to as either a preacher or a Vicar.
DANNY WILLETT: He's a Vicar.

Q. How important was only the win in the Nedbank in December but also the manner you played the last two rounds the weekend in South Africa?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, it was good. You know, we were a few behind local I think at the time we were off, and pressed and eventually got the lead and kept pressing and eventually got to a stage where we opened up quite a nice, comfortable lead to enable us to enjoy walking down the last couple holes, which was nice. The first win, BMW, was a little bit more stressful than that one. So yeah, I mean, the Nedbank win was nice at the beginning of the year and then obviously the match play was nice to do with such a quality field.

Q. What were the circumstances behind you deciding to play college golf in the U.S., and did that turn out to be a good experience for you in your golf career or not? If you could just --
DANNY WILLETT: No, I had pretty good grades coming out of just normal school for the 16. Went to college over here for a month and I hated it. I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer, so I quit after a month and practised and actually went down to the States when I was 17, younger than most, went to Jacksonville State in Alabama under Coach Hobbs and had two great years. It teaches you a lot of things, America. I think a few guys hate it because they've got moms and dads there getting them up in the morning, making them this, doing them that. I've been brought up a little bit different to that. It was a fantastic experience. Went out there, you have to discipline yourself, you are in the gym six times week, you're training, practising, getting ready for the tournaments which are pretty stressful I'd say in college golf. It's five six-man teams, every score to count in the NCAAs and stuff. It's a good standard of golf. And I'd have said early in my career it's been a massive learning curve. Actually I went out there at 17, quite young, a little bit messy, kind of do everything your own way, and then came back two years later, bigger, stronger, a little bit more disciplined in everything I did, and that kind of set up the amateur career that I had for the next year and a half after that.

Q. Before I ask my question, can you clarify your mother's name?

Q. Pádraig said that he was going to watch Terminator to get him in the mood for his assault on you tomorrow. Have you got any plans to watch anything similar tonight?
DANNY WILLETT: No, we're going to go for a nice bit of food with my wife and the children and just try and relax. I think we're going to probably have a pretty late tee time tomorrow with obviously the weather that's forecast. I think the guys are going to get 10 holes at best, the last group today, so you probably got another two-and-a-half hours of play in the morning before they can do a cut, redo the holes, redo everything, so it's going to be a pretty long next kind of two-and-a-half days, so we're just going to try and keep relaxed and enjoy the fact that we're at the Open and we're contending.

Q. When you got here this morning and you saw the weather unfold, how fortunate do you feel that you didn't have to play in that, that there was the delay, and as a follow, how important is it to have the proper attitude and embrace the conditions because obviously some guys are getting bad ends of draws as always happens here at the Open?
DANNY WILLETT: Yeah, I think last time Louis won, he got the good side of the draw and there's a few guys that got the bad size of the draw. That's an Open. I was on the wrong, wrong side of the draw at St. George's my very first Open Championship. It happens. I think everyone says over a career, 20, 25 Opens, hopefully it's going to even itself out. But yeah, I think we're pretty fortunate we didn't have to play in the rain. Obviously you look back and you can't really say it's unfortunate or fortunate because it was torrential, the golf course was unplayable, and those were the only circumstances I'd have thought they'd suspect play for an Open Championship, especially around a place like that. It's unfortunate, but that didn't stop the fact that it was 20, 25 mile-an-hour winds, and we were just kind of hoping it hasn't blown itself, for when it kind of calms down, we're hoping it stays as it is to give it a relatively fair test.

Q. Did you do anything special during the rain delay to prepare yourself to come out to play so well?
DANNY WILLETT: I went back and laid on the bed for an hour. We were here -- I were up at 5:00 this morning doing exercise in the room, and I mean, it was pouring down then and it was kind of one way -- it might have cooled off but it probably won't do at an Open, I've seen them play in worse weather, and then we got here and it kept getting progressively worse. All you can do, it's one of them sitting and waiting games, isn't it. Luckily enough we're at a hotel that's only just over the road so we can go back and chill out and then kind of start the routine again.

Q. The last five winners at St. Andrews have had at least a share of the lead at halfway. Assuming you stay there, I wonder if you're superstitious and if you see that as a good omen?
DANNY WILLETT: Yes and no, positives and negatives from leading tournaments. Leading is always difficult, whether or not to press or hold where you are, and chasing, at times, people like to come from behind and obviously keep putting pressure on the guys in front. Not really superstitious. I've been up and in around it a few times, probably enough to kind of see which way it kind of can't go. But yeah, I'd much rather be joint leader or somewhere near the lead than just making the cut. You're probably going to have a better chance.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Danny, thank you for joining us. Well played again.
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