Danny Willett wasn’t going to play The Masters this year. He and his wife Nicole were expecting their first child on the Sunday of the tournament and family comes first for the Englishman.
His son Zachariah was born 11 days earlier than expected, which freed up Willett to play the year’s first major. Naturally, he won.
Facing a three-shot deficit at the start of the final round Willett came to the first tee and wanted victory. He was level-par for the tournament and knew it would take something special to catch overnight leader Jordan Spieth, the defending champion who was aiming to become the first player to win back-to-back Masters in wire-to-wire fashion.
The odds were stacked against Willett, yet the 28-year-old shot a round of 67 that contained two birdies on the front side, three on stretch, and no mistakes. He set the clubhouse target at five-under-par.
Spieth, meanwhile, was collapsing. He had birdied four holes in a row on the front nine to turn in 32, but took bogeys at the 10th and 11th, which signalled that something was wrong.
In the middle of Amen Corner lies the 12th hole, where Spieth’s prayers went unanswered. He hit an approach into the steep ridge surrounding the green and the ball hopped backwards into Rae’s Creek. To the drop zone for the world number two, who then hit his wedge fat and turned away in disgust long before his ball plopped into the water for a second time.
Third ball out of the bag and he played it into the greenside bunker on far side, then went up-and-down for a quadruple-bogey seven. Over the following six holes the Texan made a valiant attempt at recovery, but in the space of 45 minutes he had gone from five shots ahead to trailing by three and was never going to make up the deficit.
No wonder Jack Nicklaus said the 12th hole is ‘The most dangerous par-three in the game.’
Dustin Johnson played the best tee-to-green golf on Sunday. He made greens in regulation look simple and had ample putts for birdie, but the flat stick plagued the big-hitting American. He signed for 71 to share fourth place with Paul Casey and JB Holmes.
Lee Westwood also took a crack at the title and included an eagle three at the 15th to his bid, but settled for second place alongside Spieth on three-under-par.
The day belonged to Willett, whose impeccable 67 on Sunday was worthy of a green jacket.
‘It’s been such a fantastic week on and off the golf course. My wife gave birth to our child last Tuesday, which allowed me to come here, and it’s been one of those crazy weeks when things go your way. I feel very fortunate to be stood here,’ he said from the podium.