The Open Golf 2016: Henrik Stenson outduels Phil Mickelson


July 18, 2016

The Open Golf 2016: Sweden’s Henrik Stenson outduels Phil Mickelson

by Michael Bamberger

http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/british-open-2016-henrik-stenson-outduels-phil-mickelson-capture-claret-jug

TROON, Scotland–In one of the greatest displays of golf this championship has ever seen, Henrik Stenson, at age 40, became the first Swede to win the British Open, or claim any major title, on Sunday at the stern Royal Troon Golf Club. The final round was a stunning display of mano-a-mano golf, as Stenson and his playing partner, Phil Mickelson, 46, going off in the last twosome of the day, completely distanced themselves from the rest of the field and matched each other almost shot for shot in what amounted to golf theater as its most thrilling.

Stenson won with a final-round, record-tying 63, playing the final five holes in four under par. He finished with 10 birdies, and it marked the 29th time that 63 had been shot in a major championship. (Johnny Miller, at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, is the only other champion to do it in a final round.) All Mickelson did was post a bogey-free, six-under 65. For 14 holes, the two were never more than a shot apart, one player repeatedly matching the other with a stiff approach shot or a birdie hole-out.

At the start of the round, played under unexpectedly welcoming conditions after two cold and blustery days, Stenson enjoyed a one-shot lead, as he stood 12 under par, a shot ahead of Mickelson. Both men had played spectacular golf for three days, but there was nothing to suggest the Sunday fireworks they both produced. Stenson, a tall and lean Swede who will surely be on the European Ryder Cup team in late September, has a long history of mediocre play on Sundays. Mickelson, who had not won an event since his surprising victory at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, has been experimenting with putters and putter grips as the part of his game that was once his greatest asset had become a liability.

But then came Sunday, a final act to a national title that made you almost forget about the debacle of Oakmont, where a confusing rules situation and unsteady play by the 54-hole leader, Shane Lowry, made the day less than glorious. When Stenson bogeyed the short and straight par-4 1st and Mickelson made an almost gimme birdie, the 54-hole scoreboard totals were suddenly meaningless. Mickelson led by a shot as the two went to the 2nd tee.

A shot is nothing in links golf, where bad luck in any bunker can mean a 7 on your card, where balls get can lost in gorse and in the hay. But a one-shot lead at that moment seemed significant. Mickelson had all the advantage. He has won five majors. He has played in last groups of big events many, many times. He knows how to rise to the occasion. With the winds calm, he was in position to plot his way around the course with precision. With the opening bogey for Stenson, you had the feeling it would be dejavu all over again. Would he go for 80 on the par-71 course where Americans had won the last six Opens held on the seaside course?

But then came the next nearly four hours, and a reminder of why we watch and love sports in the first place. There were no rules issues. (The pace in the final group was slow, but the R&A rules officials let it slide. The final group on the final day, playing for the oldest championship in golf, is never anything like a horse race. There are a lot of moving parts.) This was simply a fantastic display of driving, iron play, putting and thinking that showed the best of the best today are nearly as good as Tiger Woods. Between the two of them, hitting tee shots nearly the same length, smiling at each other by way of wordless compliment, there was barely a single missed shot.

Stenson birdied the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes. He gave the fifth a break—he made a routine par there—and made another birdie on 6. Bam, pop, boom. A lesser opponent might have folded up the shop by that point.

Mickelson did anything but. When he missed maybe a four-foot birdie putt on 3, he did something you seldom see in a professional tournament. He took a practice putting stroke from the same spot—flagstick in, no ball—apparently trying to work out a kink. On the next hole, the par-5 4th, Mickelson holed a roughly 10-foot putt for an eagle. He matched Stenson’s birdie on 6.

Photo: Getty ImagesPhil Mickelson has collected more runner-up finishes in major than any other golfer besides Jack Nicklaus.
And so they came to the most famous hole at Troon, No. 8, a tiny par-3, playing about 120 yards. A sawed-off nine-iron or wedge for these guys, who by this point both stood at 15 under par. Mickelson had the honor. He was dressed in the manner of his forebears, in charcoal-gray trousers and a black jumper. His face was reddish and wind-burned. His tee shot was a thing of beauty, leaving him a 15-footer. Stenson hit his to about 20 feet. The Swede made. The lefthander just missed. The advantage went Stenson, who went out in 32 despite the bogey on the 1st. Mickelson did too. Two 32s. Proof, among other things, that there is nothing wrong with letting the players play and if the scoring conditions lend themselves to scoring, and if the players can handle themselves, low scores will follow.

They both birdied the 10th. When Stenson three-putted the 11th and Mickelson got up and down for par, the two were tied again.

The stakes for Mickelson were enormous. For one thing, he would love to play on this year’s Ryder Cup team; he has been on the past 10. Also, he is trying to distance himself from an SEC investigation in which he was charged with no crime but was discovered to have had large gambling debts to professional gambler Billy Walters, who was charged with insider trading. Not that he was likely thinking about any of that, but golf is a decidedly mental game.

But golf offers no defense. It is the game’s greatest strength and why so many ordinary sports fans cannot relate to it all. Stenson, whatever Sunday problems he has had in the past, went on another three-hole tear, to match his one on the front. Birdie on 14, on 15, on 16. All Mickelson could do was watch and, because he is Phil, smile, while making a two pars and a birdie on those same holes. Stenson, who once stripped to his undershorts to play a shot from a murky pond at Doral, who has a quirky and quick sense of humor, had a two-shot lead. A two-shot lead with two to play has proven, often, to be nothing. Not on this Sunday, which was a study in steadiness. Stenson’s birdie putt at the 17th singed the lip, and he curled in a 20-footer at the home hole. Again, Mickelson could only smile.

But golf offers no defense. It is the game’s greatest strength and why so many ordinary sports fans cannot relate to it all. Stenson, whatever Sunday problems he has had in the past, went on another three-hole tear, to match his one on the front. Birdie on 14, on 15, on 16. All Mickelson could do was watch and, because he is Phil, smile, while making a two pars and a birdie on those same holes. Stenson, who once stripped to his undershorts to play a shot from a murky pond at Doral, who has a quirky and quick sense of humor, had a two-shot lead. A two-shot lead with two to play has proven, often, to be nothing. Not on this Sunday, which was a study in steadiness. Stenson’s birdie putt at the 17th singed the lip, and he curled in a 20-footer at the home hole. Again, Mickelson could only smile.

How good was their golf? The third-place finisher, J.B. Holmes, was at six under. The PGA Championship is next, in two weeks, followed by the Olympics and then the Ryder Cup. You’ll be seeing a lot of Henrik Stenson. Not matter what he does, he’s the champion golfer of the year.

 

Andy Murray and Portugal are Champions


July 11, 2016

BREAKING NEWS

Andy Murray (at Wimbledon 2016) and Portugal (at Euro 2016 in Paris) are Champions

Andy Murray defeated Milos Raonic to win the 2016 Wimbledon title after a 6-4 7-6 7-6 victory on Centre Court.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  Andy Murray of Great Britain kisses the trophy following victory in the Men's Singles Final against Milos Raonic of Canada on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Andy Murray wins 2nd Wimbledon Title

Andy Murray ended 77 years of British angst when he won Wimbledon in 2013. It didn’t take the Scot anywhere near as long to collect a second title at tennis’ most beloved tournament.

Murray cruised past big-serving Milos Raonic 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2) in Southwest London on Sunday to register a third grand slam title overall and first since downing Novak Djokovic at the All England Club three years ago.

“I feel happier this time,” Murray told reporters. “I feel, yeah, more content this time. I feel like this was sort of more for myself more than anything, and my team as well. We’ve all worked really hard to help get me in this position.Last time it was just pure relief, and I didn’t really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I’m going to make sure I enjoy this one more than the others.”–by Ravi Ubha, CNN

Portugal sinks France to take Euro 2016 crown at Stade de France, Paris

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated with teammate Eder, the goalscorer, after Portugal defeated France 1-0 to win Euro 2016.

Portugal gatecrashed France’s Euro 2016 party to win the European Championship for the first time in its history — and all this without their leading star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid forward had been forced out of the game with a knee injury in the first half, but Portugal regrouped and thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Rui Patricio took the game into extra time before Eder struck with 11 minutes to go. Portugal’s 1-0 win was all the more remarkable given in their previous 10 meetings, France had won all of them.

Ronaldo was guiding his team from the touchline during extra-time.

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo kisses the trophy as he poses on the pitch after Portugal won the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP / FRANCISCO LEONG        (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
With Ronaldo out of the picture, Portugal needed another hero and that turned out to be Patricio who throughout the game was consistently on hand to thwart France, notably in saving a couple of fierce shots from Moussa Sissoko, who had an outstanding game. Central defenders Pepe — named man of the match — and Jose Ponte were also key to Portugal’s defensive obdurateness.–by John Sinnott,CNN

US Open Golf at Oakmont–Dustin Johnson is 2016 Champion


June 20, 2016

New York

US Open Golf at Oakmont–Dustin Johnson is 2016 Champion

Dustin Johnson after winning the 116th United States Open. He had lost two other majors in unusual ways and found himself in a bizarre situation Sunday with a potential penalty hanging over him. Credit Michael Madrid/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

OAKMONT, Pa. — As Dustin Johnson teed off in the final round of the 116th United States Open, his mind-set was simple.

He would ignore the ghosts of majors past. Forget about Shane Lowry’s four-stroke lead. Ignore top-ranked Jason Day and all the other players giving chase at Oakmont Country Club. “It’s just me and the course,” he told himself.

But on the way to victory Sunday, it would become more complicated for Johnson, seemingly one of the most uncomplicated athletes to roam a golf course. Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, described Johnson this month as “a freak golf athlete,” and it is true. His opening drive of the fourth round traveled 378 yards. Enough said.

Aside from being known as a freak athlete, Johnson had a reputation for losing majors in freaky fashion. He lost the 2015 United States Open to Spieth when he three-putted the 72nd hole from 12 feet. He lost the 2010 tournament with a final-round 82 that was like a summons server, materializing out of nowhere.

Johnson held the lead at the halfway point of last year’s British Open, but finished tied for 49th when he could not break par in the final two rounds. He lost the 2010 P.G.A. Championship when he grounded his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole and incurred a penalty that kept him out of a playoff, won by Martin Kaymer.

After his brain cramp at the P.G.A. Championship, Johnson drew criticism for not summoning a rules official to assess if the spot where his ball had come to rest was in one of the hundreds of bunkers that pockmark Whistling Straits.

Fast-forward six years to Sunday, when Johnson saw his ball move on the fifth green. He did not believe he had caused the ball to oscillate, but to be on the safe side, he called a rules official. After a brief discussion, the official determined that no infraction had occurred, and Johnson stepped up and made the par putt to remain one under for the round and four under for the tournament.

Johnson made the turn in two-under 33. On the 12th tee, he was approached by United States Golf Association officials, who explained that a video review had indicated that he might have caused the ball to move in the process of placing his putter behind it at address. He was told that he most likely would be assessed a one-stroke penalty after his round.

Shane Lowry, who led by four strokes after 54 holes, after a missed putt in the final round. Credit Andrew Redington/Getty Images

At that moment, Johnson was two strokes clear of the field, but it was not just him and the course anymore. It was him and the course and the U.S.G.A. rules committee and his 0-for-28 record in the majors. There were enough factors to clog his head and cloud his thinking.

But Johnson kept calm. Despite a bogey at the 14th hole, he played the final seven holes in even par, making clutch par putts at Nos. 16 and 17 and a birdie at the 18th, which rendered the one-stroke penalty a moot point.

Johnson finished four under par at 276, three strokes ahead of Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy and Lowry.

In the final round at Chambers Bay last year, Johnson had hit two of his best shots of the week on the 18th hole, only to miss a 12-foot putt for eagle to win and three-footer for a birdie that would have forced an 18-hole playoff with Spieth.

On Sunday, with the crowd lining the 18th hole chanting his initials, Johnson hit two of his best shots of the week and made the five-foot putt for birdie to finish with a 69 (with the penalty).

Furyk, the 2003 champion who tied for second at the 2007 Open when it was at Oakmont, closed with a four-under 66 and was the leader in the clubhouse for almost two hours at one under.

Lowry and Piercy were the last two players with a chance to pass Johnson, but Piercy played the back nine in one over for a 69, and Lowry bogeyed three of the last five holes en route to a 76.

Johnson, Furyk, Piercy and Lowry were the only players to break par. Sergio García (70) and Branden Grace (71) tied for fifth at even-par 280.

In his first major, Andrew Landry, who had been at or near the top during the first three days, closed with a 78 to finish in a tie for 15th at five over.

Lee Westwood, who started the fourth round one stroke behind Johnson, with whom he was paired, posted an 80 and tied for 32nd.

With his victory, Johnson, who turns 32 on Wednesday, took himself out of the running for the “best player never to have won a major” honorarium, leaving Westwood (0 for 73) and García (0 for 71) to duke it out.

“Feels well deserved,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I didn’t quite get it done. So this one definitely feels good.”

When Johnson came off the 18th green, scooped his 18-month-old son, Tatum, in his arms and embraced his fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, he had no idea whether he would be signing for a 68 or a 69. He was glad that it didn’t matter.

“Because that would have been bad,” he said. “But you know, it worked out.”

A Tribute to Muhammad Ali


June 5, 2016

A Tribute to Muhammad Ali: Admired, Misunderstood but Generous to a Fault

ww.nytimes.com

Oakland, Calif. — MUHAMMAD ALI, who died Friday at the age of 74, was the greatest boxer of all time, but he was also deeply human, as full of frailty and foibles as anyone. He was physically vulnerable: Early on, doctors warned him and his camp followers that he was getting hit too much while training for his fights. He wouldn’t listen, and no one around him tried to persuade him otherwise.

Many would agree with the boxing trainer Emanuel Steward that Ali should have quit after his triumph over George Foreman in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), in 1974. Instead, he boxed for another seven years, and paid for it in the subsequent decades of physical and mental frailty. His trainer, Angelo Dundee, said that he was already suffering from brain damage when he fought his last two fights.

Reason for Refusal to serve in Vietnam in 1967

It seemed like the more people watched Ali, the less they understood him. Many of the writers who worshiped him — those I call the Ali Scribes — cast him as a member of the 1960s counterculture for his 1967 refusal to serve in Vietnam. In fact, he was simply following the nonviolence policy of the Nation of Islam, which he had joined a few years earlier.

The Wisdom of the Nation’s Elijah Muhammad

Ali’s relationship with the Nation was always more complicated than the Ali Scribes realized, or wanted to admit. They saw him as a victim, saying that the Nation stole money from him. Unlike them, who dismiss Ali’s mentor and the head of the Nation, Elijah Muhammad, as a “cult racketeer” or worse, I actually interviewed some of the Nation members. They said that it was the other way around: According to Khalilah Ali, whose father was a captain in the Nation and whom I interviewed on a cold winter day in Chicago, the organization — and her father personally — gave him much more money than he gave in return. Some members of the Nation are still bitter.

Even so, Ali was generous, more perhaps than was good for him. Howard Moore Jr., a lawyer and a frequent house guest, said that Ali’s phone would ring all day. Callers were asking him to pay their rent or loan them money, and more often than not he did, no questions asked. According to the documentary “The Don King Story,” after Ali was nearly killed in the ring by Larry Holmes in 1980, Mr. King, the promoter of the fight, cheated him out of all but $50,000 of an $8 million purse (Mr. King denies the charge).

Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali–Two of the Greatest

Ali eschewed the promoters and agents who spoke for other boxers, but he had his own traveling circus of parasites and hangers on who encouraged him to fight, no matter the damage to his body. He took such a beating from Earnie Shavers in 1977 that Teddy Brenner, the matchmaker at Madison Square Garden, refused to book him to fight there again. After another fight, Ferdie Pacheco, a fight doctor, warned those who were close to Ali that he was urinating blood; he got no response.

Ali sometimes fell in with the wrong crowd, including his friend Major Coxson, a politician and gangster in Cherry Hill, N.J., who was killed in a 1973 mob hit. One of his managers, Richard M. Hirschfeld, was a criminal who hanged himself in jail. Howard Smith, the one-time chairman of Muhammad Ali Professional Sports Inc., used the champion’s name to steal $21.3 million from Wells Fargo, one of the largest embezzlement cases in history.

Ali’s career will make you cry. Long after he retired, he remained a symbol of rock-solid strength, but even during his career he was in decline. Here was this young, self-described “pretty” boxer who could dazzle you with his raps, who was always bubbling over with confidence. But his three years away from the ring, from 1967 to 1970, were damaging. The boxer Ron Lyle said that before Ali’s absence, you couldn’t touch him — but after he returned to the ring it was easy enough.

Ali was a pugilist, but also a poet — literally. The first time I saw him was in 1963, when he came to read his poetry at a cafe in New York’s Greenwich Village called the Bitter End.

The last time I saw him was in 2005, when I attended the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky. He looked drawn and weary. The loud mouth that rattled the nation had been shut. The Louisville Lip had been stitched.

Was he in fact the greatest boxer of all time? Some say that Joe Louis was greater. Louis in turn called Sonny Liston the greatest heavyweight champion in history. And indeed, Liston busted a whole bunch of people on the way up, and a whole bunch on the way down.

But then I think of a story that one of Ali’s friends and former managers, Gene Kilroy, once told me. A child was dying of cancer. Ali visited the hospital and told the boy that he was going to defeat Sonny Liston and that he, the kid, was going to defeat cancer. “No,” the boy said. “I’m going to God, and I’m going to tell God that I know you.”

 

The Passing of Iconic Muhammad Ali, 74, The Greatest Boxer of my Generation


June 4, 2016

There is no entertainment this  weekend except for this sombre piece of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Requiem in tribute to the Late Muhammad Ali, the Greatest Boxer of my generation and a great human being.–Din Merican

 

The Passing of Iconic Muhammad Ali, 74, The Greatest Boxer of my Generation

by 

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/03/us/muhammad-ali/index.html

Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer who proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and was among the most famous and beloved athletes on the planet, died Friday in Phoenix, a family spokesman said.

Ali had been at a hospital since Thursday with what spokesman Bob Gunnell had described as a respiratory issue. “After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74.>

The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” Gunnell said in a statement. “The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time.” Ali’s daughter Hana Ali said her father was the a “humble mountain.”

Don King, the boxing promoter who was every bit as brash as Ali, told CNN that in his mind Ali will never die.”His spirit will go on forever,” he said. “He’s just a great human being, a champion of the people, the greatest of all time.”

Even as the former champ battled Parkinson’s, he had the same love for life and people, King said. Parkinson’s disease, which primarily affects a patient’s movement, is a “progressive disorder of the nervous system,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“His spirit was solid as ever,” King said. “He wasn’t the man who’d take defeat. Defeat wasn’t in his vocabulary.”

The Ali sense of humor was displayed in an old photo tweeted by Oscar De La Hoya, who won titles in six weight classes.”RIP @muhammadali, a legend who transcended sport and was a true champion for all. #thegreatest #MuhammadAli,” De La Hoya wrote above an image of Ali whose mischievous eyes proudly watched as his right hand made rabbit ears behind the “Golden Boy’s” head.

In recent years, Ali had largely stayed out of the public spotlight. In his last known appearance, Ali appeared at Parkinson’s fundraiser April 9 in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Republic. A photo posted by the newspaper showed Ali wearing dark sunglasses.

He once was known not only for his athletic prowess as a three-time heavyweight champion but also for his social activism.

Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky, as Cassius Clay in January 1942. He began boxing as an amateur when he was 12 years old and in 1964 became heavyweight champion with a knockout of Sonny Liston. That year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.

Ali’s sparkling career was interrupted for 3½ years in the 1960s when he refused induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was convicted of draft evasion. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction. Ali was prepared to go to prison, King said.”

He stood his ground on who he was. They took him to all kinds of trials and tribulations,” King said. “He’d rather go to jail than break what he believed in.”During his boxing hiatus, Ali used his fame and popularity to speak out about racism in America.

America honours Muhammad Ali –The Greatest Boxer

 

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called Ali a friend and a mentor. “At a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labeled uppity and often arrested under one pretext or another, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right,”

Abdul-Jabbar (above) wrote on Facebook. “In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller. I may be 7’2″ but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.”

Ali went on to win the heavyweight title twice more before retiring for good in 1981.

Ali also was hospitalized in January 2015 with a urinary tract infection. He was hospitalized in December 2014 with pneumonia. Funeral services will be held in Louisville, Gunnell said.

CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

2016 US Masters: UK’s Danny Willett Wins The Green Jacket


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.
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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.