Everyone watching Sunday’s Masters thought Jordan Spieth was on his way to becoming one of the greatest Masters champions of all time at the ripe age of 22 when he suddenly hit a roadblock on the par 3 12th. Spieth opened with a blistering 32 on the front 9, opening up a 5 shot lead over the field and Danny Willett. However, back-to-back bogeys by Spieth and back-to-back birdies by Willett cut Spieth’s lead to just 1 by the 12th. There, the unthinkable happened as the usually clutch and tactical Spieth plunked two shots into the water, leading to a quadruple bogey 7 and a 3-shot lead for Willett.
Willett continued his strong play, adding a birdie on the 16th to cap off a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to win the 2016 Masters by 3 shots over Spieth and Lee Westwood.
Willett win? Yes, he will
Just 2 weeks ago, Danny Willett’s status for The Masters was up in the air as he was expecting the birth of his first child on Sunday, April 10th. Perhaps fate intervened as Danny’s wife Nicole delivered their son, Zachariah, early on March 30th, allowing the 28-year-old to play in the Masters. The new father arrived to Augusta late on Monday, flying under the radar despite a win in Dubai earlier in the year and a t3rd at Doral where he fell victim to the Blue Monster on his 72nd hole.
Willett was able to win by limiting his mistakes and making no worse than a bogey for the week, regardless of the tough weather conditions. Entering the final round 3 shots behind Spieth, Willett knew he needed his best (as well as mistakes from Jordan) in order to don the Green Jacket. Willett delivered, hitting brilliant shot after brilliant shot on Sunday’s back nine when he became the surprising winner.
An epic collapse
What happened to Spieth is hard to put into words, but any competitive golfer can empathize with the feelings the 22-year-old experienced Sunday. Spieth’s gameplan at Augusta is to miss smart (in the right spots) and use his short game and putting to make his way around Augusta without big numbers, a strategy that works on all holes but the 12th. Despite his dwindling lead, the championship was Spieth’s to lose as he stood on the 12th tee (the same hole that cost him a shot at the 2014 championship) and hit 2 terrible shots. While Spieth was able to come back with birdies on 13 and 15, the real question is whether he will be able to snap back from the first adversity of his young career.
Same old story
Another major, another top 5 for Dustin Johnson, who found himself in contention on the back 9 again. The script played out similarly to so many before as Johnson was able to use his power and superb approach shots to put his putter in the spotlight, but like many times before, that club let him down. While Johnson didn’t collapse, no player (other than Spieth) can look back at this year’s Masters with a “what could have been” more than Dustin.
Coming up short
McIlroy thrust himself into a Saturday final pairing with Jordan Spieth after a hard fight Thursday and Friday. Saturday wasn’t a day to remember for McIlroy as the star faded with a birdie-less round of 77, while rival Spieth seemingly played poorly but still shot a 73. The pairing showed the stark contrast in each player’s game and strategies, with Spieth tactically limiting his mistakes and McIlroy seemingly going out of his way to make them. 2016 will mark another near miss for McIlroy, who ended up finishing t10th.
DeChambeau makes a name for himself
In his final hurrah as an amateur, Bryson DeChambeau turned heads in the golfing community. Playing himself into contention and going toe-to-toe with Spieth during Friday’s round showed he is ready for the bright lights. Finishing a respectable t21st for the week, DeChambeau has officially turned professional and will suit it up at this week’s RBC Heritage. The polarizing player will attempt to earn his way into the PGA Tour by way of 8 sponsor exemptions where he needs to either win or earn enough money to make the top 125 in FedEx Cup points. A tough task, but DeChambeau has shown he has the game to do it.
The young and the old
Sunday’s final round had all eyes on youngster and Masters rookie Smylie Kaufman and 58-year-old Champions Tour star Bernhard Langer.
Kaufman used a 69 in brutal Saturday playing conditions to earn a final pairing with Spieth. Smylie was vying to become the first Augusta rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller and looked to be up to the challenge by hitting it to 4 feet on the first hole, but he ended up lipping out the birdie putt (a microcosm of the day ahead). Kaufman struggled to a final round 81, a day which surely will be a learning experience for the promising PGA Tour rookie.
Fans were ready to “Feel the Bernhard” on Sunday, but much like Kaufman, Langer seemed to finally run out of gas. Kicking off Sunday’s action, the two-time Masters champion sat in 3rd place, but a birdie-less final-round 79 tumbled Langer to a tie for 24th.
Talk about a hole in one
Sunday’s pin yielded 3 hole-in-ones, including Louis Oosthuizen’s improbable bank off of J.B. Holmes’ ball. Watch them all here.
Anything else we should know?
The only other tour in action this week was the Web.com in Columbia, which also saw a dramatic finish as Canadian Brad Fritsch was able to defeat the promising young Ollie Schneiderjans in a playoff. Fritsch opened with a 71, the highest start of any winner on the Web.com since Smylie Kaufman’s win in 2015.