As he played the back nine, Danny Willett knew the chances of winning the 2016 Masters were not good. He trailed defending Jordan Spieth by five shots. All he could do was play his best.
When Spieth rolled in his fourth consecutive birdie on the ninth hole, he seemed on his way to becoming the fourth player to ever defend their title.
But inexplicably, Spieth had the type of meltdown inexperienced professionals are apt to suffer. Certainly not the number two player in the world.
While Willett began making birides, Spieth bogeyed the 10th and 11th hole, then hit two balls in the water on number 12 that changed his five-shot lead to a four shot deficit.
“I put a bad swing on it (at 12),” said Spieth. “It was a lack of discipline coming off those two bogeys. It was a rough 30 minutes that I hope I never have to experience again.”
Birdies at 13 and 15 gave Spieth some hope, but a near-miss on 16, then a bogey on 17 meant the green jacket he thought he would wear would instead be presented to Willett. In this case, the ritual of Spieth putting the jacket onto Willett seemed especially cruel.
For his part, Willett did what he was supposed to do. Had he not shot a bogey-free 67 on Sunday, Spieth could have survived the disaster that visited him.
“We went out and tried to shoot a good score,” said Willett. “We tried to put a little pressure, we got to five (under), I had in my head six, but got to five and waited.”
The event capped what was probably the best week for Willett. Earlier in the week, he welcomed a newborn son back home in England.
Spieth finished tied for second with Lee Westwood at two under par. Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson and J.B. Holmes, tied for fourth at one under.
updated at 7:30 p.m.
With a comfortable five stroke lead after nine holes at the 2016 Masters, Jordan Spieth found himself three strokes off the pace after 12.
In an unbelievable series of events, the defending champion bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes, then played the worst hole in his major championship career. His tee shot on the par three 12th hole went into Rae’s Creek.
After a penalty and drop, he hit his third shot into the same hazard. His quadruple bogey elevated Danny Willett into the lead at five under par.
Willett led Dustin Johnson by two shots and both Lee Westwood and Spieth by three with two holes to play by Willett. Spieth was two under par through the 13th hole.
Updated at 6:06 p.m.
Coming into Sunday’s final round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club, front-runner Jordan Spieth had plenty of challengers. His bogey, double-bogey finish to Saturday’s third round brought several competitors back into the hunt.
As the fourth round proceeded, challengers still remained, but their identities changed. Smylie Kaufman started the day at two under par, just one stroke behind Spieth. Bernhard Langer, the 58-year-old two-time champion and Hideki Matsuyama from Japan both started the day at one under.
All three struggled through the early holes on Sunday. Kaufman was two over on his first seven holes to fall to even par while Langer slipped to three over through eight holes. Matsuyama fell to two over after the eighth hole.
Spieth, meanwhile, was steady. Birdies at the second, sixth, seventh and eighth holes offset a bogey at number five. That left the 22-year-old defending champion at six under par with a four shot lead over England’s Danny Willett. Willett was two under through 10 holes.
Dustin Johnson was one under through nine holes. Jason Day, the top-ranked player in the world was at even par through nine holes.
Number two Rory McIlroy was four over through 12 holes. Two-time champion Bubba Watson of Bagdad, Florida finished at nine over par.