April 12, 2016
2016 US Masters: UK’s Danny Willett Wins The Green Jacket
Danny Willett-2016 Master Champion
The agony of Jordan Spieth admitted the ecstasy of Danny Willett. One hour which surely imposed psychological scarring on the 22-year-old Texan shaped a path for Willett to etch his name into the record books. That a 28-year-old vicar’s son from Rotherham walked it without so much as a wobble is worthy of immense credit.
More importantly for Willett, Masters champion, it befits winning a Green Jacket. The cruelty element is that Spieth was obliged to present it to him.
This fairytale began on March 30, when Willett became a father. Owing to that unpredictable but impending circumstance there had been a question mark as to whether or not he would even take part in this tournament. Less than a fortnight after the arrival of baby Zachariah James, daddy was at the epicentre of one of the most jaw-droppingly exciting afternoons in Masters history. Bare statistics of Willett’s final-round 67, five-under total and three-shot win belie exceptional stuff.
Willett is only the second Englishman to win the Masters, the first European to take that prize since 1999 and he is suddenly catapulted into a level of scrutiny completely alien even when he was in the hitherto hardly insignificant placing of 12th in the world.
No tale of this event, though, can pass without deep mention of Spieth’s tribulations. Shortly after 5pm on Sunday the defending champion reached seven under and held a five-stroke lead. Spieth subsequently bogeyed the 10th, which barely registered with the crowds, but a dropped shot on the 11th combined with Willett’s birdie three holes ahead prompted collective cries of “hang on”.
Spieth, 20 years on from Greg Norman’s epic capitulation to Nick Faldo here, was to feature in an uncharacteristic horror show of his own. The 12th provided 155 yards of abject terror for Spieth and the first quadruple bogey of his professional career. Willett was three clear by the end of it. American golf fans checked Wikipedia.
Typically, as befitting a champion, Spieth summoned the only instinct he knows but he was to fall short; tied second for a second time in three years will offer absolutely no consolation. His closing stretch became painful to watch.
As the defending champion battled in vain, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson did likewise. Westwood, who shares a management company with the champion, was also Willett’s playing partner and will take heart from evidence that the claiming of a major title is still not beyond him but elements of jealousy and hurt would be only natural. He shared second place with Spieth.
On an inside wall of the Augusta National clubhouse a series of bronze plaques show the celebratory poses of Masters winners. Willett’s image will join them and the fact that it will would have defied belief from the moment Spieth made the 50-yard walk from 9th green to 10th tee, cheered every step of this narrow corridor by adoring crowds. They thought they were acclaiming the 2016 champion.
The improbability of a Spieth meltdown to anything like what transpired will resonate. He showed no mercy when sealing Masters success one year ago, just as glory at the US Open two months later demonstrated the matching of God-given ability with ferocious competitive spirit. When Spieth leads, he wins; he had been in front at Augusta since Thursday. The breaking of that run came in front of an astonished audience.
And yet traces of impending trauma had been visible. Spieth did not seem wholly content all week – and rose to the top of the pile when clearly displaying his B game – to the extent that he called back his coach, Cameron McCormick, from Dallas between rounds three and four. On each of those instances Spieth had appeared on site three hours before tee time to iron out flaws. His driving had proved erratic, as offset by a recurring ability to pull off escape acts.
There had been routinely good fortune, such as at the 4th on Sunday when a horribly carved tee shot, apparently bound for a different zip code, instead rebounded from a tree into semi-rough. Spieth was to make par. This was far from an isolated incident; begging the obvious question as to how long he could continue unscathed.
Willett was the man to take advantage when Spieth’s wheels flew off. Any onlooker could only admire the nerveless manner in which he played the last two holes, with straight pars after making birdie at the 16th, when doubtless aware of the life-changing prize within view. Willett grasped opportunity with confidence.