Willett wins Masters as Spieth struggles

This past Sunday at Augusta National Golf Course, Englishman Danny Willett won his first career major in his second appearance at the Masters. Willett played a fantastic round, with a bogey-free 5-under-par, which matched the best score of the tournament. Amazingly, two weeks ago, Willett was not even expected to play the Masters because his wife Nicole was pregnant and due to have their first child on April 10, which was also the date for the final round of the Masters. The two had their child on March 30, allowing Willett to fly over to the United States and compete in the Masters.

Aside from winning the championships Willett was not the only big storyline from the Masters. In the fourth round on Sunday, Jordan Spieth had the biggest meltdown in golf history, blowing a 5-stroke lead with two bogeys and a quadruple-bogey in the first three holes of the back nine. Some have even claimed it to be the most devastating collapse in all of sports history. Spieth closed out the front nine with four straight birdies, moving to the 10th hole with a five-shot lead over Willett. At that point, Spieth appeared to have sealed his victory, having created such a large distance from anyone else in the tournament. Then, after just three holes, Willett had taken over the lead at 4-under par, and Spieth had dropped to 1-under par. His collapse was in full tilt at the 12th hole. After hitting his tee shot into the water, Spieth hit his next attempt from the drop area into the water. Spieth then went on to hit his next shot into the bunker behind the 12th green, leaving him two more shots for a meager seven. The quadruple-bogey was the highest score he has ever carded in his 46 rounds at the majors level. He still had an opportunity to win it all after his first shot landed in the water, but on his second shot into the water, Spieth gave up the lead barely reaching the water on a shot that was only 80 yards from the pin. It was shocking that he showed such nervousness considering that last year, when he won his first major at the Masters as a 21-year-old, showed no signs of nerves on his way to dominating the field. Interestingly, Willett is the first Englishman to win the Masters since Nick Faldo did so in 1996. Faldo’s triumph came after Australian Greg Norman blew a six-stroke lead on the back nine, similar to how Spieth collapsed on the back nine.

At the 2015 Masters, Spieth had the lead through all four rounds, known as wire-to-wire, and tied the Masters scoring record of 18-under par. This led many to speculate that Spieth could become one of the best players ever because of the way he was playing at such a young age. Because of his domination at the Masters, many believed that Spieth would easily ride off into the sunset with a 5-stroke lead and only nine holes to play. With the a comfortable lead over his competitors, Spieth was in line to be only the fourth to win back-to-back Masters championships and the first to win back-to-back championships while possessing the lead after every round. Spieth was the first-ever to lead for seven rounds in a row and was on the path to extending his record with an eighth consecutive round. In addition to these accomplishments, Spieth would have been the youngest player ever in the Masters era to win three majors. If Spieth had done all of these things, he would have definitely been in the conversation as the greatest player in golf history. But after those two shots went into the water, many spectators did not know what had just hit them or Spieth, because the mastery that he had displayed at the Masters over his short career had simply evaporated. Spieth doubted the decision he and his caddie made to hit a draw on his tee shot on the 12th, showing a lack of commitment to the shot. It was tough to watch him go through such a painful collapse. Many were so shocked that he blew the lead because there was not really anyone near Spieth who could threaten him, given that his closest competitors, Rory Mcilroy, two-time major winner and No. 3 in the world, and Jason Day, No.1 in the world with one major championship, had played very poorly and were several shots behind. Although the harsh wind in the first three rounds hindered the ability of others to make a push toward the lead, the wind was not a factor in the final round.

Despite the disastrous collapse, Spieth handled the loss with class, gracefully giving Willett the prize green jacket and conducting the post-tournament interview with poise. It goes to show that anything can happen in sports. Like the saying goes, “the Masters truly does not start until the back nine on Sunday.” It was a tough loss for Spieth, but hopefully he will be able to rebound from the heartbreaking loss. Given his young age of just 22, there will be many opportunities for him in his future to win more majors.