Sport Golf

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Danny boy is the master as iron man Spieth falls

Texan's spectacular back-nine crash allows Willett to waltz his way into the Green Jacket

Jordan Spieth presents the Green Jacket to the victorious Danny Willett. Photo: Getty
Jordan Spieth presents the Green Jacket to the victorious Danny Willett. Photo: Getty
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

The Golden Bell sounded the death knell for Jordan Spieth's bid to win consecutive Masters titles in a thrilling finish at Augusta National yesterday.

Spieth had the air of a man marching imperiously to his destiny when he turned into the back nine leading by five shots from closest challenger Danny Willett.

Inexplicably, he faltered, going bogey, bogey on the 10th and 11th, and then entered his own version of the Twilight Zone.

Splish, splash. Two balls in the water on the 155 yards, par-3 12th, the aptly-named Golden Bell hole. A bunker behind the green gathered his fifth shot. Spieth blasted out of the sand and holed out for a whopping seven which dropped him from five-under-par to one-under.

Typical of the man, he gouged a birdie four from the par-5 13th, and later, the 15th, but par on the 16th meant he needed birdie, birdie to tie.

Willett, playing ahead of Spieth, found himself in a two-shot lead as the champion derailed.

The gritty Yorkshireman, 28, dug in to birdie the 14th and 16th holes.

He saved par with a superb chip to tap-in distance at the 17th, and held his nerve to close with another par on 18 for 67.

Willett could then only sit on his -5 clubhouse lead and watch on TV as Spieth fought desperately to salvage his round from the wreckage.

Too much to do, too little time to manage it. A bogey on the 17th signalled the end for Spieth, and delivered a first European victory at Augusta since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.

Spieth ended on 73, two-under overall and joint-second with England's Lee Westwood, who shot 69.

Spieth's finishes at the last five Majors now read: 1st, 1st, Tied 4th, 2nd, Tied 2nd but that will be of little consolation to him today as he ponders this one that got away. To add to what must have already been one of the most surreal day's in the 22-year-old's life, he had to present the Green Jacket to Willett in the Butler Cabin.

Spieth, who has now finished second, first and second in his three Masters appearances, looked understandably emotional as he told CBS: "It's tough, really tough. Four birdies in a row and I knew that even par (on the back nine) is good by at least a shot and sometimes that makes it hard. You go away from the game plan and start playing conservative. A few weak swings and suddenly I am not leading any more It was a very tough 30 minutes for me that I hopefully never experience again."

For Willett, there was joy unconfined as he attempted to call his wife Nicole from the clubhouse only to be given a huge bear-hug by his caddie once Spieth had bogeyed 17 to leave Willett with an unassailable three-shot lead.

"It's a fine line between disaster and success and it happened to Jordan," said Westwood. "Anything can happen at Augusta."

Westwood looked to have brought himself into contention when, playing alongside Willett, he chipped in for eagle on the 15th moments after Spieth was enduring his disastrous 12th hole.

That left Westwood just a shot behind his fellow Englishman on three under par, however, Westwood's putting problems returned on 16 as he three-putted for a bogey while Willett seized his opportunity with a birdie.

Elusive

This was Westwood's ninth time to finish in the top three at a Major but the winning the first one remains as elusive as ever, which can't now be said for his compatriot who felt that fate had certainly played a part in his triumph.

Willett's wife Nicole had been due to give birth to the couple's first child on Sunday, but Zachariah James Willett arrived early to allow his proud new father to play in the year's first major.

He was also the 89th and last player to register after only arriving at Augusta on Monday.

"On this rare occasion I'm nearly speechless," Willett said at the presentation ceremony. "It's been a fantastic week on and off the golf course.

"My wife gave birth last Tuesday which allowed me to come here and it's been one of those crazy weeks where things seem to go your way.

"My wife was born 28 years ago (on Monday) and my son was due today and he came early to let me come and play. You talk about fate and everything that comes with it ... it's been crazy.

"People were saying 'Try to bring the green jacket home for the little man'. It's a bit big but I am sure he will grow into it."

Willett factfile

1 - Willett came close to not even playing in the tournament as his wife's due date for their first child was on Sunday but their son, Zachariah James, was born via C-section a week ahead of the tournament.

2 - Before his debut in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral's 'Blue Monster' course in March, Willett ''played'' the course on a simulator at Doncaster Golf Range. He went on to finish joint 12th in the prestigious tournament.

3 - His father is a vicar.

4 - In the first round of the Amateur Championship in 2007, Willett beat a certain Rory McIlroy 2&1, having been five up after six holes.

5 - His wife Nicole caddied for Willett in the par-three contest on the eve of his debut in last year's Masters. Willett finished joint 38th in the tournament proper at Augusta National.

6 - In Dubai in January last year, Willett, his wife and caddie took part in a charity skydive to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation.

7 - After leaving school at 16, Willett quit a local college course after a month - ''I hated it'' he says - before attending Jacksonville State in Alabama for two years.

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