Sunday at The Masters is always special and memorable and today’s final round was both for a myriad of reasons.
With all the top players in the world playing so well coming into this week if just a few of them stayed in form the ’16 Masters was bound to be a good one. And the way things played out The Golden Child, Jordan Spieth was in the lead. His PGA Championship nemesis and world number one, Jason Day was only four shots back. Dustin Johnson was four back also and Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Brandt Snedeker were all in striking distance.
Sunday morning Spieth woke up with a one shot lead over Champions Tour mainstay and two time Masters Champion Bernhard Langer. Danny Willett was three shots back.
While Spieth was in the lead he was anything but dominant. Through his first three rounds he did card fifteen birdies but also six bogeys and three double bogeys with one of them a lead crushing six on his 54th hole.
He knew he was doing it with smoke and mirrors as his “A” game didn’t make the trip to Augusta with him. He was struggling to find fairways, to hit greens and his normally stellar short game even had begun to give him fits.
His swing coach, Cameron McCormick even flew back in from Dallas for an early Sunday morning session.
His day started benignly enough with a birdie and a bogey through five holes. But his driver was in the bag and he was leaning on his 3-wood. Didn’t matter, he was having issues playing from the short grass too. But then he got hot as he always seem to do.
He strings together four straight birdies from six through nine to get to seven under and a five shot lead. This was the Spieth we all expected, the Spieth even he expected. Nines holes left with a five shot buffer that has to be a good place to be.
But the old adage goes “The Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.” And it couldn’t have been more apropos today.
With Spieth holding a comfortable lead and a resume that boasts two majors and a near miss at the Grand Slam I bet many of us we ready to celebrate Spieth’s historic defense. This is Jordan Spieth. He knows how to win and how to win at Augusta.
But the cracks in his game deepened over the next few holes. A bogey at ten hurt but then on eleven after a poor drive he attacks a pin that no one was going at and stuffs his third shot to a few feet. It was a gutsy and astonishing shot that few could or would have tried. All he needed to do was sink the par putt to stop the bleeding and his putter his his magic wand has always been the elixir to all his ills. The putt slid by…back to back bogeys, painful, but he still held a one shot lead over Willett.
One of Spieth’s greatest assets is is ability to analyze on course situations and react to them and we have seen him bounce back from trouble before but the next hole was just so out of character for the number two golfer in the world.
With a little wind on the twelfth tee he conferred with caddie Michael Geller and set about to hit a shot into the most beguiling of holes at Augusta National. He had parred it in the first two rounds and made birdie in the third. At 156 yards it seems like every pro should hit that green.
But this is Amen Corner, this is The Masters and this was Spieth’s downfall. His tee ball faded way right, hit the bank and bounced in the water. Penalty stroke and his next shot, taken from the line of play, not the drop area, was reminiscent of the best of the Skinner Divots. The second he struck his third shot I knew he was cooked. I have seen that huge divot hundreds of times. But usually it’s coming off my club not the defending Masters Champion’s.
His fifth finally made it over but finished in the back bunker. A wonderful sand shot and a good putt gave him a green jacket killing seven and left the entire golf world as stunned as he and Geller were. This doesn’t happen to Jordan Spieth. But the twelfth at Augusta has taken down the best in the world. Seve, Norman and Spieth himself in 2014.
Yes, it had happened to Jordan Spieth.
But Spieth was able to gather himself and his bounceback factor has always been high. He took birdie on thirteen and then again on fifteen but he was running out of holes and strength and grit. He limped home in what had to be the most painful holes he ever played in his life.
While Spieth was struggling Willett was as solid as solid could be. Birdies on thirteen, fourteen and another on sixteen gave him a lead no one could touch. Not his playing partner and mentor Lee Westwood. Not Dustin Johnson who melts in majors. And not Jordan Spieth who was as beaten down as a player at this level could be.
It was Willett’s moment as Spieth finished and struggled to keep his normal “totally in
control, say the right thing” composure.
Spieth folded today for sure but he still finished second in The Masters with his “B” Game. So far at three appearances in The Masters he has a second, a green jacket and another second. Not bad for a twenty two year old.
Danny Willett will forever be a Masters Champion and revel in all that goes with it. This has been a surreal week for Willett who was ready to pass on this tournament if his wife had not delivered early as her due date was actually today.
Willett became a father last week and the best week of his life ended with him landing in Augusta on Monday and the professional week of his life ended with a Masters win and a green jacket. Willett is living an amazing time in his life.
Jordan Spieth lost The Masters today.
Danny Willett won The Masters today and that’s an amazing thing. But I bet it’s the second best thing that has happened to him in the past two weeks.