CHASKA, Minn. — With stakes at the Ryder Cup so high, the players are under plenty of pressure. Danny Willett’s focus faltered a bit Wednesday during practice at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
This wasn’t a case of rookie nerves, though.
This was because, well, his brother has a big mouth.
Willett was a couple of holes into his round when informed about the online buzz created by the colorful, humorous and crude essay written by his columnist brother , Pete Willett, on the National Club Golfer website that poked fun at the American players and castigated the culture from which their fans have come.
“It is tough to then concentrate,” Danny Willett said, “because you don’t want people to think badly of yourself.”
The 28-year-old reigning Masters champion tried his best to move on, as difficult as it was, and apologized for the message that came across from his sibling. Willett praised the American fans who “took me under their wing fantastically” at Augusta National Golf Club in April.
“It was tough then to kind of get your head around everything,” Willett said in an interview with Golf Channel. “You kind of wanted to get off the golf course and hopefully get it sorted, you know, like I said to Pete today, as quick as possible and, like I said, hopefully draw a line under it and get back to what we’re doing.”
Europe captain Darren Clarke tried to distance the team from the scathing critique, which could’ve been perceived as partially tongue in cheek until Pete Willett posted on Twitter that he meant “every word” of what he wrote.
“I showed it to Danny, and he’s bitterly disappointed in his brother’s article,” Clarke said. “It is not what Danny thinks. It is not what I think. It is not what Team Europe stands for.”
Pete Willett wrote that he hopes Team Europe will “silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hotdog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red.” He also urged the Europeans to “smash the obnoxious dads, with their shiny teeth, Lego man hair, medicated ex-wives, and resentful children.”
Danny Willett sought out American captain Davis Love III to express his regret.
“He took it very well and I think he’s drawn a line under it obviously for himself and for the team,” Willett said. “So hopefully everyone else can do the same and hopefully we can get on and have a great tournament.”
Love said he took the advice of notoriously insular New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and “ignored the noise” about the essay.
“If I read it, I’m just going to get mad. If I read it, I’m just going to get defensive,” Love said. “So I just try to ignore it.”
The crowd this weekend will of course be fiercely partisan for the Americans, who have lost three Ryder Cups in a row and eight of the last 10 events.
“If we play well here, and get the fans behind us, then we’ve got an advantage,” Love said. “But we have to go do it.”