A healthy Danny Willett enjoyed a flying start to his second round at the BMW PGA Championship as he set the early clubhouse target at 11 under, although he insisted he was not “back to his best”.
The 2016 Masters champion was five under after five holes as he raced into the outright lead and, although he picked up three more shots around the turn, his momentum stalled with a bogey at 14 and he would go on to return a seven-under 65.
Willett started with a birdie at the first for the second day running, and he picked up further shots at the third and fifth either side of an eagle at the fourth as he suddenly vaulted into the reckoning.
Another birdie at the ninth matched his outward 29 in the second round back in 2016, and he would have had Alex Noren’s course-record 62 in his sights when he also birdied 11 and 12 as he opened up a three-shot lead over the chasing pack.
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But his hopes of matching Noren took a hit when he tugged his tee shot at the 14th and left himself an awkward pitch through the fringe, and he could not avoid his first bogey of the day.
Willett plotted his way steadily through the remainder of his round, narrowly missing the chance to return to 12 under when he left his birdie putt at the last a few inches short, but he was understandably delighted with two excellent rounds over the West Course.
“It was one of those days, really,” said Willett, who later had company in the clubhouse lead when Jon Rahm eagled the last. “We hit a lot of good shots, holed some nice kind of mid-range putts and I think with the wind picking up it’s probably better that you don’t expect that coming in.
“You just try and hit some good golf shots and see what it gives you, and fortunately today it gave us a pretty quick start. I think it’s my 10th straight year here. I’ve had a couple nice finishes, and the game is in good shape. It has been for a while and it’s just nice to come back.
“The crowds have been amazing for two days, good weather and the golf course is in great condition. This weekend you’re going to have a real good leaderboard and we’ve put ourselves in a position to be right up there.”
Willett insisted he was still not “back to his best” but he is relieved to feel his body being in good shape having endured numerous injury problems throughout his career, particularly back issues.