Willett, who won the 2016 Masters by three shots for his maiden major, has chosen to serve a first course of mini cottage pies followed by a Sunday roast with prime rib, roast potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.
McIlroy had bogeyed the first for the second day in succession, which possibly accounted for the wind-assisted 393-yard drive which he then smashed down the second.
Though there may be plenty of golf still to play on Friday, Willett must be looking to card a score much closer to level par if he is to avoid the cut.
The 29-year-old became the second Englishman to win the coveted Green Jacket after Nick Faldo thanks to his final round of five-under par on the final day at the Augusta National Course in Georgia.
Danny Willett is the defending champ. "And the last 12 months has been somewhat of a roller coaster within life and golf".
"When we arrived home, it was manic, really", Willett said as he prepared to defend the green jacket beginning Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club. Thomas has three wins this season and another pair of top-5 finishes.
"It's hard to miss a week like this, even though there's a lot going on", he said.
"Augusta is unique in many, many ways in that it's all about finding out where the pin is before we start the hole", he said.
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Favourite Dustin Johnson is part of an all-American trio also comprising two-time Masters victor Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker, while Olympic champion Justin Rose is set to play alongside world No3 Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker in another high-profile group. You've done it once, so why can't you do it every time you play?
"He says it's a thank you for all I've done".
And what of Willett since his day of glory last April?
True, injury and back problems have had a hand in a poor return of just four top 10s since the Masters.
The pressure to perform to one's best is there for all, but when your best is Masters champion, that pressure can be punishingly burdensome. He is a fabulous putter but he misses too many greens and you can't win The Masters if you are forever hitting recovery shots to save par. He's not the first player to struggle after being thrust into the spotlight as a major victor and won't be the last.
As ever, Augusta is a week in which legends are both made and slayed, and where careers can be set on unexpected paths - good and bad.
"That's where the game jumps up and bites you". It was only after numerous texts and phone calls from friends and family that I tuned back into one of the most exciting finishes Augusta has seen in recent years.