Danny Willett won his first major title in stunning fashion on Sunday as defending champion Jordan Spieth suffered an amazing collapse in the final round of the Masters.
Spieth birdied four holes in a row from the sixth to reach the turn with a five-shot lead and seemingly certain to follow Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in winning back-to-back titles at Augusta National.
However, the world number two – who had led for seven rounds in succession following his wire-to-wire victory last year – then dropped shots at the 10th and 11th and ran up a quadruple-bogey seven on the 12th after hitting two balls into Rae’s Creek in front of the green.
Willett, who was a doubt to even play the year’s first major before his wife Nicole gave birth to the couple’s first child last week, had birdied the 13th and 14th to reach the top of the leaderboard and another on the 16th helped complete a superb 67.
Dustin Johnson briefly closed within two of the lead with a birdie on the 15th, but double bogeyed the 17th to leave Spieth as the only man capable of preventing Willett from becoming the first English winner of the Masters since 1996 and the first European since 1999.
Birdies on the 13th and 15th kept Spieth’s hopes alive, but when he missed from eight feet for birdie on the 16th and bogeyed the 17th, Willett could celebrate a famous win.
“It’s awesome,” Willett told CBS. “We played great golf today. It’s been a fantastic week. We had to go out and shoot a good score and put a little pressure on and luckily we have done that.”
Lee Westwood played the final round alongside his stablemate Willett and was within a shot of the lead when he chipped in for an eagle from the back of the 15th green.
However, the former world number one – who already held the record for the most top-three finishes (eight) in major championships without winning one – then three-putted the 16th and had to settle for a closing 69 and a share of second with Spieth.
“It’s a fine line between disaster and success and it happened to Jordan,” Westwood said. “Anything can happen at Augusta.”
England’s Paul Casey carded the lowest round of his Masters career, a 67, to achieve his best finish with a tie for fourth alongside Johnson and JB Holmes, with Matt Fitzpatrick also shooting 67 to finish a shot further back with Soren Kjeldsen and Hideki Matsuyama.
”I played really well tee to green and gave myself lots of chances, that was the big thing,” said Fitzpatrick, 21, who missed the cut by a shot in 2014 after qualifying by winning the US Amateur title.
”I had a lot of putts between six and 15 feet and certainly on the back nine decided to hole them and that was the difference.”
Rory McIlroy, who went into the third round a shot off the lead but faded with a 77 on Saturday, carded a closing 71 but admitted he had felt the pressure of trying to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
“I was in a great position going into the weekend and I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it really mattered,” said McIlroy, who finished joint 10th with Justin Rose, Daniel Berger, Brandt Snedeker and world number one Jason Day.
“That’s the thing that I take away not just from this week, but from previous Masters.
“I’ve been in position before and I haven’t got the job done when I needed to and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my game, I think that’s more me mentally – I’m trying to deal with the pressure of it and the thrill of the achievement if it were to happen. I think that’s the thing that’s really holding me back.”
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