LONDON (Reuters) - Danny Willett’s surprise victory at the 80th Masters has almost certainly secured him a rookie appearance for Europe’s Ryder Cup team in September.
The 28-year-old Englishman, who took advantage of American Jordan Spieth’s spectacular back-nine meltdown to win by three shots at Augusta National on Sunday, has leapfrogged Rory McIlroy at the top of the Ryder Cup qualifying list.
Rank outsider Willett’s victory also sent him into the world top 10 at number nine after entering the week ranked 12th.
“Still can’t believe what has happened. Masters champion 2016. Wow,” he said on his Twitter account after becoming the first European winner of the opening major championship of the season since 1999.
“Words can’t describe the week I’ve had. Thanks to everyone involved @The Masters, fantastic hospitality from the members.”
Willett said that being in the same two-ball with fellow countryman Lee Westwood, and his caddie Billy Foster, in the final round was a big help.
“I’ve played a lot with Lee over the last couple of years,” he explained. “I’m very good friends with Billy as well so I couldn’t have asked for a better pairing for a Sunday in a major when you’re both in contention.
“We both played some great golf. We were kind of egging each other on to do well.
“I’m delighted for Lee...hopefully this is a springboard for him to get back to being the great player that we all know he is,” added Willett.
Westwood finished in a share of second position alongside Spieth, a result that lifted him within one place of the top nine automatic European Ryder Cup qualifying spots for the biennial match against the U.S. team at Hazeltine, Minnesota.
Top nine on Ryder Cup list:
1. Danny Willett (England)
2. Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
3. Matthew Fitzpatrick (England)
4. Andy Sullivan (England)
1. Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
2. Justin Rose (England)
3. Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Spain)
4. Sergio Garcia (Spain)
5. Thomas Pieters (Belgium)
The other three members of the 12-man European team will be selected as wildcards by captain Darren Clarke.
Editing by Larry Fine