It was the great Scottish poet Robert Burns who penned the following line: “Oh would some power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.”
It is a maxim to which every nationality across the globe might do well to adhere. But it rarely is, as was made clear by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the now notorious column penned by Pete Willett (older brother of Masters champion, Danny) in the lead-up to the 41st Ryder Cup matches. Widely interpreted as “anti-American” in its tone and content, the piece was closely followed by a public apology from the younger Willett, who was quick to disown the harsh and outspoken sentiments expressed by his sibling.
That was never going to be enough, of course. And, one day later, when Willett entered the media center at Hazeltine National for his scheduled press conference, the second question asked of him got right to the heart of the matter: “Could you give us an idea of how the conversation with your brother went last night?”
To his credit, Willett handled that and all subsequent queries with a quiet dignity and transparent honesty. As he reiterated again and again, “This wasn’t my writing or the team’s writing.”
“I have now read the article, and I don’t think the language was all that great,” he continued. “A lot of the things that were said can be taken in a very bad way. And that’s obviously what has happened.
“I was disappointed in what he wrote and it has obviously put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup the last couple of days. It has been tough to focus. It’s not a great thing for myself. It’s an unfortunate one for a rookie. This is supposed to be a special week.
“And yes, Pete has apologized to me. Family is family. He’s still my brother. What he said was wrong and incredibly ill-timed, but he is still my brother. I’m sure we’ll have a good chat when I get home after this week.”
Still, while things may eventually quiet down within the Willett home, there is the little matter of what might or might not happen when Danny steps onto the course over the next three days. Modern-day Ryder Cup galleries are not exactly known for their decorum and the danger is that Willett may be “targeted” by the more unruly elements outside the ropes.
“It’s not been too bad so far with the fans,” Willett said. “There was a few shouts out there but you expect that. By tomorrow morning it will hopefully have died down a bit more. I’m not saying it is going to be completely forgotten, but hopefully we can all get on with what we are here to do.
“Coming to America as part of the European team you are already a bit of a target. This has centered attention on me a bit more. Hopefully everyone can draw a line under it and we can just go out and play some golf. I spoke to Davis (Love III) and some of the American lads and they felt the same way. In an ideal world, the fans will do the same thing. This is only my first Ryder Cup but we won’t let it tarnish the 41st Ryder Cup.”
Danny Willett: dignified, honest and, perhaps, a little naive.