AUGUSTA, April 11 – England’s Danny Willett was the shock winner of the 80th Masters on Sunday thanks to a bogey-free final round and an epic back-nine collapse by defending champion Jordan Spieth.
Willett fired a five-under par 67 for a three-shot victory that brought the 28-year-old Englishman the green jacket symbolic of victory at Augusta National as well as a $1.8 million top prize from the $10 million purse.
“It’s crazy. It’s surreal,” Willett said. “Words can’t describe the emotions and feelings. You do something special and it still doesn’t quite sink in what you have achieved.”
Willett, five down to Spieth with six holes to play, birdied the par-5 13th, par-4 14th and par-3 16th to charge into the clubhouse while the 22-year-old American endured a nightmare meltdown with bogeys at 10 and 11 and a quadruple bogey at the par-3 12th.
“I just put a couple of weak swings on it and suddenly I’m not leading anymore,” said Spieth. “I’ll be disappointed with that one.
“It was a very tough 30 minutes for me. I hope I never experience it again.”
Willett finished 72 holes at five-under 283, with Spieth and English playing partner Lee Westwood sharing second on 286. Westwood, trying to win his first major title at age 42, shot 69 while Spieth, who defends his US Open title in June at Oakmont, fired a 73.
Spieth, as defending champion, presented Willett with the green jacket that he looked to make his own for most of the week, leading after all three prior rounds.
“It was a very surreal day when I look back at the ebbs and flows,” Willett said. “I was able to make a couple of good putts and here I am.”
Willett was not even going to play the Masters because his wife was due to give birth on Sunday, but she gave birth March 30 and he was able to come down Magnolia Lane for his date with destiny.
“You talk about fate and everything else that goes with it — it has been a crazy week,” Willett said.
World number 12 Willett took his first major crown in only his 12th major start, becoming only the second England golfer to win the Masters after Nick Faldo, the champion in 1989, 1990 and 1996.
Spieth, a wire-to-wire winner last year, had a last gasp with birdies and 13 and 15, but he missed a eight-foot birdie putt at 16 and a bogey at 17 sealed his fate.
– ‘Lack of discipline’ –
World number two Spieth closed the front nine with four birdies in a row to reach the turn with a five-shot lead over Willett.
Then came a back-nine horror show as frightful as anything Augusta National’s famed Amen Corner has ever inflicted.
Spieth went bogey-bogey to begin the back nine and disaster struck at 12 as Spieth plunked his tee shot and his third into Rae’s Creek, his lead vanishing as the ball did in a splashdown to plunge him from the lead at five-under to one-under and three back.
“It’s tough. It’s really tough,” Spieth said. “Just put a bad swing on it right at the wrong time. Just compounded mistakes. Just lack of discipline.”
Even rivals felt sympathy.
“Anything can happen in Amen Corner,” said Westwood. “It’s a fine line between disaster and success at this place. That’s how it is in major championship golf. It throws you some shocks.”
Willett sank four-foot birdie putts at 13 and 14 to reach four-under. Westwood chipped in for birdie at 15 to pull within a shot but Willett responded with a birdie from seven feet at 16 while a Westwood bogey dropped him three back.
Willett, who shared 38th last year in his Masters debut, joined Phil Mickelson and Doug Ford as the only Masters winners to shoot 67 or better in a bogey-free last round.
Spieth failed in his bid to join Faldo, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as back-to-back Masters winners and missed a chance to overtake Australia’s Jason Day for the top ranking spot.
England’s Paul Casey and Americans Dustin Johnson and JB Holmes shared fourth on 287 with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, Dane Soren Kjeldsen and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick another stroke back sharing seventh.
– Aces wild with three at 16 –
Anticipation built for the wild back nine after a record three aces at the par-3 16th in the same round.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry and US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love made the first two at the 170-yard hole and South African Louis Oosthuizen added a third when his ball struck billiards-style off that of playing partner Holmes and into the cup.
Germany’s 58-year-old Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters winner trying to become golf’s oldest major champion, fired a 79 to finish on 294.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy, trying to become the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam, fired a 71 to finish on 289.