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Willett relishes playing against Tiger in bid to end slump in form

(Photo: Getty Images)

Danny Willett is hoping a return to defend his Dubai Desert Classic title this week will help him rediscover his best form.

The 29-year-old Sheffield-born star sparked his impressive 2016 campaign in the UAE 12 months ago when he edged out future Ryder Cup team-mates Rafa Cabrera Bello and Andy Sullivan to claim the title.

The victory in the desert provided Willett with the impetus to go on and secure his first major title in The Masters at Augusta National just two months later.

Willett’s form declined after that career high and he has not managed to add to his five European Tour titles since.

But, with Dubai coming back around on the calendar this week, he is again looking to use the tournament as a springboard to further success.

“Last year this tournament was the start of really what was an amazing season,” said Willett. “I played some pretty good golf in the run up, then it was one of them weeks where everything kind of clicked nicely.

“It was the first time I think within a tournament that I had been in and around the lead all week, instead of either coming from behind early on or having a biggish lead with nine to play.

“You look at Augusta, I could draw on Dubai quite a lot, how I played and how I played under pressure and how I composed myself mentally and having to hole a few key putts at the right time.”

Willett goes up against a strong field with Open champion and 2007 Dubai Desert Classic winner Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia both involved.

But he is relishing going head-to-head with Tiger Woods given that he will play his opening two rounds alongside the former world number one.

Willett added: “I think that’s great for the European Tour to have arguably the greatest player of all time come to Dubai and to try and take that championship trophy away on Sunday. There are a few of us that are going to try and stop him, but yeah, it’s great to have him back.”

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