By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) – European player Danny Willett said dealing with his brother’s published lampooning of U.S. golf fans has been a distraction for him and that he is keen to immerse himself in the Ryder Cup that starts on Friday.
The Masters champion has been busy apologizing to U.S. players and their captain Davis Love III, to his own European team mates and captain Darren Clarke for Pete Willett’s crude depictions and the timing of them, and now yearns to get on with enjoying his first experience at a Ryder Cup.
Willett said the hardest thing for him has been to focus on his preparations at Hazeltine National but, after working hard to clear the air, he hoped the controversy would fade.
“It’s been pretty tricky for me to get back on and fully focus these last few hours, especially this morning,” Willett told reporters on Thursday.
“Not saying it’s going to be completely forgotten, but hopefully it’s died down a little bit more and we can all get on with what we’re here to do.”
He said he spoke with his brother on the phone on Wednesday night.
“We spoke to each other about what was said and how it got interpreted and the reactions from it. I was disappointed in what he wrote and obviously it put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup for the last couple of days,” he said.
Willett did not get off on the right foot with spectators in Thursday’s practice, hitting someone in the gallery with an errant tee shot at the second hole.
“It was all right. It was what you can expect,” Willett said about the reception he received.
“There’s some pretty rowdy American fans every Ryder Cup. That’s the nature of the beast, that’s what happens. Same when the guys come to Europe. Obviously the European spectators are more behind the European team. That’s how it works.
“You don’t mind the odd bit of heckling, but hope it doesn’t go too far. Luckily, it’s not been too bad with the fans. The fans have still been great. There’s a few shouts out there but you can expect that.”
Willett has some family members, including his parents, at Hazeltine to cheer him on.
“They were upset with the whole thing and how it came about, and obviously what’s been said,” Willett noted.
“But they were there again today walking inside the ropes with me and showing their support, and that’s all I can ask.”
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)