Willett rights ship after shaky start in title defence

Charley Hoffman is off and running in the second round of the Masters, a second-hole birdie restoring his four shot lead over William McGirt.

Willett became the first Briton to win the Green Jacket in 20 years when he shot a five-under-par 67 as 2015 champion Spieth crumbled during a thrilling final round.

"We've had two fabulous years and then you have a little bit of a downturn and it feels like the world is coming to an end".

"You're nearly hoping that you dropped all your shots just in one go, which is what we kind of did", Willett said. Where it finished wasn't great.

"You've got to take it all with a pinch of salt - sometimes it's definitely better to just turn your phone off and put it away so you don't read it, but sometimes if something is said that is out of order, I think you should say something back".

"I feel so fortunate that I have been able to play many majors in a row and given myself a lot of chances".

After a tough second round, Henley was happy with his game. But a disastrous quadruple-bogey 8 on the first hole Friday was a heavy load to carry.

"I tried to make a pact to myself not to [feel the pressure] but it's hard", said Willett.

But on a star-studded leaderboard, the top 15 players were separated by just five shots and included Olympic champion Justin Rose, the 57-year-old 1992 champion Fred Couples and 22-year-old rising star Jon Rahm on one under.

"Even just being in position going into Sunday, I know more than most what can happen on Sundays around here, good and bad".

Willet dug deep and responded quickly with a birdie at the par-four third and picked up another stroke at the par-four 10th where his approach from about 180 yards stopped some eight inches from the hole.

Hoffman acknowledged he was simply trying to make pars in the tricky conditions - gusts approached 40 miles per hour, flung hats off patrons' heads and sent egg-salad sandwich wrappers blowing across greens and fairways - so he wouldn't shoot himself out of the event.

As Masters week kicks into accelerated gear, the game's best players talked about the demons lurking on the course, the Lexi Thompson rules scandal and, most importantly, what will be served at the Champions Dinner.

"He's then had to deal with the last 12 months and everything that goes with and is expected of a Masters champion, so naturally it was going to impact on his golf, as we have seen".

Willett was one short of the record for highest score on No. 1.

World number one Dustin Johnson was hoping a late start would help rescue his bid for a fourth straight victory after injuring his back on the eve of the Masters.

Starting Thursday, he'll look to join a rare club of back-to-back champions - only fellow Englishman Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won the Masters in consecutive years.

  • Julie Sanders