Monday, April 11, 2016 4:41 am
Danny Willett in a green jacket was hard to believe considering he wasn’t even sure he could play the Masters two weeks ago.
No one was more stunned than Jordan Spieth, the three stroke leader overnight, coming to the final round.
Nine holes away from another wire-to-wire victory, the defending Masters champion threw it away Sunday with a collapse around Amen Corner that was shocking even by Augusta National standards. With a five-shot lead heading to the 10th tee, he dropped six shots in three holes and could never catch up.
Even more painful for Spieth?
He had to go to Butler Cabin and to the 18th green ceremony to present the green jacket to Willett.
“It was a really tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I never experience again,” Spieth said.
And it was a comeback that ranks among the most surprising at the Masters.
Willett always had this Sunday circled on his calendar — the due date of his first child. He wasn’t planning to be at Augusta National until his wife gave birth to their son, Zachariah James, on March 30 and sent the 28-year-old Englishman on an improbable path to becoming a major champion.
Five shots behind with six holes to play, Willett birdied three of his last six holes to polish off a round that might not get its due because of the unforgettable images of Spieth’s meltdown. Willett closed with a 5-under 67, with no bogeys on his card, to match the best score of the weekend.
When he slipped on the green jacket, it was already early Monday morning in England — his wife Nicole’s 28th birthday.
“We talk about fate, talk about everything else that goes with it,” Willett said. “It’s just a crazy, crazy week.”
Willett ended Europe’s 17-year drought at Augusta National, and he became the first player from England in a green jacket since Nick Faldo in 1996.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” Spieth told CBS Sports about his stunning three-hole collapse, his voice cracking with emotion. “Pretty sure I’ll be disappointed with that one.
“Just put a bad swing on it right at the wrong time. Just compounded mistakes. Just lack of discipline. A very tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I will never experience again.”
Finishing level with Spieth at two under was England’s former world number one Lee Westwood who, still seeking a first major title after recording 17 top-10 finishes during a stellar career, returned a 69.
England’s Paul Casey (67) and Americans J.B. Holmes (68) and Dustin Johnson (71) tied for fourth at one under while world number three Rory McIlroy, seeking to complete a career grand slam of the majors, returned a 71 to share 10th place.
*Reuters and PGA Tour