By Paul Myers
Wow. It’s safe to say that no one saw that coming. Even with the countless words that were written and said in advance of the 2016 Masters Tournament, nobody could have predicted the manner in which the battle for the green jacket would be decided. At the end of it all, Englishman Danny Willett left Augusta with the victory of a lifetime, and Jordan Spieth walked away simply stunned.
With half of Masters Sunday in the rear view mirror, it looked for all the world like the 2016 version of the event would end just as the 2015 edition did – with Spieth holding the trophy after cruising to an easy win. Walking off the ninth green, Spieth was five clear of the field, having just birdied the last four holes in a row. Many golf fans thought the tournament was over at this point, and it would be hard to blame them. Five shot leads are rarely blown within a nine-hole stretch – especially when that lead is held by the defending champion and one of the very best players in the world.
Three Hole Nightmare
Jordan Spieth’s tee shot on the par four 10th hole didn’t look too bad at all. He wasn’t happy with it, but it finished just off the fairway in the right rough. However, with the ball out of position, he would have a difficult approach to the sloped green, and a bogey would be the result. On its own, this was nothing to be concerned about. After all, a single bogey isn’t a big deal with a five shot lead, especially when it comes on one of the toughest holes on the course.
A bogey on 11 would follow the one on 10, after another poor drive. At this point, many fans were starting to think that something crazy was possible, considering the fact that Willett had made a birdie and the lead was shrinking quickly. Of course, nobody was ready for what would happen when Spieth took on the short but tricky par three 12th.
With the hole cut on the right side of the green, the obvious shot was to aim left of the hole and make sure the ball carried deep into the green (or even into the back bunker). While that was certainly his strategy, Spieth was unable to execute the swing, and the shot was in trouble from the moment it left the club. It flew short and right of the target, bounced off the bank, and back into the creek. Suddenly, the lead was gone and Spieth was back in a battle for the title. After dropping at a comfortable distance, Spieth played a sand wedge shot that he hoped would set up a short putt for bogey – and chunked it right back into the same creek. Amen Corner filled with gasps, and Spieth looked stunned at what had transpired.
A Beautiful Round
History will likely remember the three holes that cost Jordan Spieth the chance to become back-to-back Masters Champion, but Danny Willett deserves all the credit in the world for his play. A bogey-free 67 on Sunday at Augusta is a legendary round, and he was there to jump into the lead when Spieth found trouble. Moving forward, Danny Willett is now ranked in the top ten in the world, and Jordan Spieth will be counting the days until the U.S. Open when he can set his sights on another major trophy.