Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Golf

Jordan Spieth collapses as Danny Willett wins first Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga.

Jordan Spieth couldn't bear to watch, turning his head before another shot splashed into Rae's Creek. Moments later, Danny Willett looked up at the large leaderboard at the 15th green and couldn't believe what he saw.

This Masters turned into a shocker Sunday, right down to the green jacket ceremony. Spieth was in Butler Cabin, just like everyone expected when he took a five-shot lead to the back nine in the final round at Augusta National. Only he was there to present the jacket to Willett, who seized on Spieth's back-nine collapse with a magnificent round that made him a Masters champion.

"You dream about these kind of days and things like that, but for them to happen … it's still mind-boggling," Willett said.

It was a nightmare for Spieth, especially the par-3 12th hole. Clinging to a one-shot lead, he put two shots into the water and made quadruple-bogey 7, fell three shots behind and never caught up. Instead of making history with a second straight wire-to-wire victory, he joined a sad list of players who threw the Masters away.

"Big picture, this one will hurt," the 22-year-old Spieth said.

It was a comeback that ranks among the most unlikely in the 80 years of the Masters on so many levels.

Willett wasn't even sure he would play this year because his wife was due to give birth to their first child on Sunday. She delivered Zachariah James on March 30, sending Willett on an amazing journey to his first major.

"We talk about fate, talk about everything else that goes with it," said Willett, 28, who was the last player in the 89-man field to officially accept his invitation. "It's just a crazy, crazy week."

He became the first player from England in a green jacket since Nick Faldo in 1996, and the parallels are bizarre. Faldo shot a bogey-free 67 and overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round when Greg Norman collapsed around Amen Corner. Willett also closed with 5-under 67, with no bogeys on his card, to match the best score of the weekend.

His 5-under 283 ended up three shots better than countryman Lee Westwood (69) and Spieth, whose final round was 1-over 73.

Spieth, coming off two straight bogeys to start the back nine, still had the lead when he went at the flag with a 9-iron on the par-3 12th and saw it bounce off the front slope into the water. From the drop zone, he hit a wedge so fat that he turned his head and removed his cap, not wanting to see the splash. He got up-and-down from the back bunker and suddenly faced a three-shot deficit.

It was the first time Spieth made anything worse than double bogey in a major as a pro.

"I actually heard everyone grunting and moaning or whatever they do to the scoreboard when the scores go up," said Willett, who had never finished better than tied for sixth at a major. "(Spieth) obviously had a terrible run, which basically put it right back in anyone's hands. And fortunately enough, I was able to seize the opportunities."

Spieth was trying to become only the fourth back-to-back winner of the Masters, and the first player in 156 years of championship golf to go wire-to-wire in successive years in a major. It looked inevitable when he ran off four straight birdies to end a 4-under 32 front nine and build a five-shot lead.

But things turned quickly.

Spieth made bogey from the bunker on No. 10. His tee shot went into the trees on the 11th, then he missed an 8-foot par putt. He still had a two-shot lead and needed only to get past the 12th to settle himself, especially with two par 5s in front of him.

"It was a lack of discipline to hit it over the bunker coming off two bogeys instead of recognizing I was still leading the Masters," Spieth said.

Spieth was five shots ahead on the 10th tee and three behind when he walked to the 13th tee.

"It was a really tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I never experience again," Spieth said.

Willett poured it on with a shot into the 14th to about 4 feet and a tee shot on the par-3 16th to 7 feet for a birdie that stretched his lead. Spieth still had a chance when he birdied both par 5s to get within two shots, then hit his tee shot to 8 feet behind the hole on the 16th. But he missed the birdie putt, and when he hit into a bunker and failed to save par on the 17th, it was over.

Jordan Spieth's Round 4 scorecard

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Par4 5 4 3 4 3 4 5 4

4 4 4 3 5 2 3 4 332

Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Par4 4 3 5 4 5 3 4 4

5 5 7 4 4 4 3 5 441

 
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