Former Masters winner Danny Willett has advised new Open champion Shane Lowry to be “selfish” when it comes to approaching the next 12 months as a first-time major winner.
Irishman Lowry is beginning his first day in possession of the Claret Jug and already has his first media appearance pencilled in for Monday afternoon in Dublin, barely 24 hours after he teed off in the final round at Royal Portrush.
Willett knows exactly what the 32-year-old will go through over the coming months as three years ago he experienced something similar after becoming the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1996 to win at Augusta.
The Yorkshireman admits the demands placed on him after that took its toll and - combined with a untimely back injury and a lack of form - saw him plummet to 462nd in the world.
Willett said he would do it all differently were he to win a major again and he advised Lowry to think carefully about every opportunity which was offered to him.
“Take some time off. Spend it with your family and friends, enjoy what you accomplished,” was the advice.
“It doesn’t happen very often. You need to enjoy it and then get yourself back and refocused and try to press on.
“It’s very easy to get pulled in different directions to go play in Asia, to go all over the world.
“Shane has a little one (a daughter) now so he’ll be more on trying to stay with his pals and trying to chill out.
“Be a little bit selfish and do what’s right for him. Try not to get pulled about and sent around the world to play a bit of golf.
“These (majors) are the tournaments you need to win and to do that you need to be focused.”
Willet’s joint sixth at The Open was his best major finish since his Masters win, which remains the high point of his career.
Soon after that he went into a slump, starting at the Ryder Cup that year when, struggling for form, he was embroiled in controversy when his brother published inflammatory remarks about Americans and Willett himself went on to lose the three matches he played in. The following year he missed the cut in three of the four majors, including his defence of the Masters, and lost his privileges on the PGA Tour after failing to make the required 15 starts. Back problems saw him miss the cut or withdraw from 32 of 62 events before winning November’s DP World Tour Championship.
His finish on a wet and windy afternoon at Royal Portrush was his highest since that victory in Dubai. Now older and wiser, Willett feels his game is coming back to him and has adjusted his schedule in an attempt to regain the heights he hit at Augusta and also avoid the problems which followed.
“It is obviously fantastic for us this year because we’re playing such a small schedule in Europe,” said Willett before flying out to Memphis for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational.
“I made a few bad decisions after that to play too much golf when I didn’t really fancy it and if I could go back and do it differently I would — but I can’t. You learn from it and go forward. Next time it happens I will do it differently. I’d not go travelling the world, I’d stay at home.”