Danny Willett shot a bogey-free final round of 67 to win the Masters by three shots and become only the second Englishman to win at Augusta National – after Jordan Spieth endured a calamitous journey around Amen Corner when the American was seemingly poised to retain the title.
Spieth made four birdies in a row to reach the turn in a sparkling 32 and take firm control of the tournament.
But he bogeyed the 10th and then the 11th to hint at his fallibility before an all-world collapse at the short 12th.
His tee shot hit the bank and toppled back into Rae’s Creek – but in truth was not close to being safe – and he then chunked his third from the drop zone straight into the water.
With his third attempt to find the green, he flew it into the back bunker. He got up and down bravely from there and made courageous birdies at 13 and 15 to hint at an amazing recovery, but missed a putt on 16 to keep his comeback going.
By this stage Willett was in the clubhouse on five under after a deeply-impressive round that combined control of his ball with tremendous patience.
The Rotherham player did not make a birdie until the 6th but added another at the par-5 8th to turn in 34 – but still a long way from overhauling Spieth.
However he picked up another shot at the 13th just as Spieth was starting his Amen Corner meltdown, and in the space of an hour the Masters had turned upside down.
From appearing set for a coronation of Augusta’s new prince on the back nine, it became a test of whether Willett could hold his nerve up the last two.
That he managed with aplomb to confirm the greatest turnaround in the Masters since Faldo’s Mano a Mano tussle with Greg Norman 20 years ago to the day.
It was a day of what might have been for some many in the field, who must now be lamenting their failure to emulate Willett’s composed scoring.
Lee Westwood got to three under with a chip-in on 15 but gave a shot back at the next rather than move further forwards. Westwood, who finished tied second with Spieth on two under, now has eight career top-three finishes in the majors.
Dustin Johnson also got to three under on 15 – and also had a make-able eagle putt on 13 to gain a further stroke – but like the Englishman, finished with a whimper as he double bogeyed 17 to finish on one under.
He was a shot further back on one under alongside Paul Casey and JB Holmes, neither of whom threatened to join the party after poor front nines.
Soren Kjeldsen was playing steady golf to be one under on the 12th, at the time just a shot behind Willett, but could not find the birdies that the champion was able to – all of which were simply down to solid ball-striking rather than anything extravagant – at the crucial time.
He finished in a tie for seventh with Matt Fitzpatrick and Hideki Matsuyama on level par.
Rory McIlroy made three consecutive birdies but was never in the hunt and has some thinking to do before the US Open after a fairly dreadful weekend’s work when well placed after a good day on Friday.
That Willett won by a clear three shots might not tell the story of the day, but it does illustrate how impressive his golf was on Masters Sunday.
He can look forward to a Ryder Cup debut in September as well as the honour of joining the most exclusive, most colourfully-tailored club in the game.
Diary notes from Day Four
► Roars appeared on Sunday
The lack of famous Augusta roars had been much lamented this year, but they made an appearance on Sunday. The 16th was more like its equivalent in Phoenix for much of the afternoon, so loud and so often that players frequently had to back off shots from several holes away. It was verging on raucous and possibly not massively enjoyed by the Green Jackets.
► Day’s DJ bewilderment
It’s not often a tour player is astonished by what another tour player does (Smylie Kaufman probably was on the 12th given what Jordan Spieth was doing in all honesty), but when Dustin Johnson flew the bunker on the 8th with his drive, Jason Day couldn’t help but shake his head in bewilderment at what he had seen as he teed his own ball up. DJ cleared it comfortably – it is 310 to fly it – with what was an awesome tee shot of 340 yards. Perhaps Day’s machismo got the better of him when he tried the same line…. but he cleared it too.
► Augusta’s pricing policy
The food and drink here for the patrons is frankly incredible. You can get a sandwich and a beer for less than £5, and it’s not rubbish either. The prices at the Open are double, and more. But what ANGC gives with that hand it takes away with its merchandise – polo shirts, caps and sweaters are all pricey. You aren’t forced to buy them of course – but a rough estimate suggests at least half are lured into buying something with the famous yellow logo on it.
► Brits on tour
We mentioned how many British spectators are here earlier in the week, and that was borne out from the 18th hole as Danny Willett finished. It was more like the PGA at Wentworth than the Masters at Augusta given the amount of cheering from Willett’s compatriots. He can’t have helped but notice the support he had – changed days from past eras, when Faldo, Lyke et Al will have won in front of no more than a handful of British fans.
► Willett’s slice of history
Danny Willett is the last man to be interviewed in the media centre, which is being knocked down after the tournament. Word is the media will be moved to somewhere much less convenient than the current position alongside the 1st fairway – in fairness, it is a ludicrously good spot to house a load of journalists.
It is one of the slightly surprising perks of covering the Masters; full access to the Augusta National clubhouse. While it isn’t as opulent as you might imagine, it is a treasure trove if you enjoy golf history. There are cabinets celebrating the parts played in the development of ANGC by Bobby Jones, Dwight Eisenhower and Alister Mackenzie as well as memorabilia from past champions.
► Celeb spotting goes retro
While in the grounds of the clubhouse Ian Baker-Finch, Open champion in 1991, graced us with his blazered presence. He commentates on US TV these days. Craig Stadler also had a blazer on but his was green as befits the famous rookie winner here. He doesn’t look any older than he did in the 90s. And then we spotted someone that looked familiar but we couldn’t place. It was film ‘star’ Kurt Russell, who these days looks more like a Walrus than Stadler.
Best of the quotes from the final round
“I’m not sure what is the better feeling, last week when my son was born or today.
“We were last to check in on Monday. We got No.89. Someone told me Jack Nicklaus got 89 in 1986.
“It is mind boggling to win here. I can’t put it into words at the moment, but it is just everything that goes with it, the jacket, the rich history, this magnificent tournament.
“Jordan just said to me afterwards ‘great playing, you played awesome’. It just shows the class of the guy he can carry himself like that after what happened to him.
“I can’t wait to come back here many times, and hopefully sit in this chair again (as defending champion.
“It’s a really cool thing to host the Champions Dinner. I might serve roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, something quintessentially British. With a nice bottle of red wine.” – Danny Willett, 67
“I never felt confident looking down at my irons all week. I hit some good iron shots, but not enough of them. I never liked looking down on an iron this week. Playing like that, to finish second, is creditable I suppose, but for me to shoot three over par rounds in a row is just not acceptable. I shouldn’t ever do that, even in a US Open. Especially as I was under par for the front nine. But I still think our team, when it is on, is the best in the world.” Jordan Spieth, 73
“I want to be top 15 by July 11. I would desperately like a GB tracksuit (for the Olympics). For me to play Ryder Cup, something has got to move. Either the number of events or a major victory. When (son) Max gets older and is off to school that will change everything. Until then, one of those things have to change.” – Paul Casey, 67
“I feel great. My game is exactly where it needs to be. I’m doing all the right things. I hit all the right spots. After making a double on 5 I came back really well to the house.” – Dustin Johnson, 71
“I’ve been feeling edgy on the greens for a couple of years now. You get under pressure at Augusta and the greens are running at 16, 17 and you’re going to feel a little bit nervous, which I did.” – Lee Westwood, 69
“I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it mattered. It’s more mental than my game, and I’m trying to deal with the pressure of it and the thrill of the achievement if it were to happen. That is the thing that’s really holding me back. I felt very tentative, not attacking. Trying not to make mistakes is not my game.” – Rory McIlroy, 72
“I need to get rid of the distractions. I’m still not doing s good enough job of that. Unfortunately I paid the price yet again. I need to be more ruthless and respect my time a bit more.” – Ian Poulter, 72
“Augusta should play firm like this, to stop it being s putting contest. I am still trying to figure it out though. Maybe I can play another 18 times and see if I do…” – Sergio Garcia, 71
“I wouldn’t say it has been playing in my mind all week, but I know it is the case (finishing top 16 earns an invite).” – Matt Fitzpatrick, 67
“I said after winning the Amateur that I would turn pro but I didn’t mean it – there is no tournament like it and I just can’t wait to get back here.” – Romain Langasque, 68 (31 back nine)