Masters: Willet Ends England’s 20-year Major Wait


Danny Willett became the first Englishman to win a major in 20 years since Sir Nick Faldo.

The 28- year- old native of Yorkshire rose on the back of a back-nine meltdown by American Jordan Spieth to win the year’s first major by three strokes after grossing the score of five-under 283.

He played a bogey free final round of 67 to win his first Masters in second attempt.

But the manner he did it is akin to the way Faldo broke the heart of Australian Greg Norman, who allowed a six-shot lead to evaporate on the final day of the 1996 event.

Willett is a slightly built, average-looking bloke with a wispy mustache who is impressively accomplished on the European Tour-four victories and a world ranking inside the top 10 come Monday- but likely was unrecognizable before the week to all but the most ardent American golf fan.

Spieth, 22, led the Masters for a record seven consecutive rounds, and when he was five strokes up with nine holes to play he couldn’t possibly have fathomed that a couple of hours later he would be slipping the green jacket onto another man.

When Spieth had solemnly performed that duty at the outdoor awards ceremony in near-darkness, Willett took to the microphone, affably turned toward Spieth and said, “I feel very fortunate to be standing here, and you not putting the green jacket on yourself again.”

Speaking to reporters later, Spieth said, “As you can imagine, I can’t think of anybody else who may have had a tougher ceremony to experience.

“I am obviously happy for Danny. More important than golf, he’s had a lot of really cool things happen in his life.

“Like he said, maybe fate had it this time for him. I certainly wanted to control fate myself.”

The plot twists and bizarre circumstances involved in this particular result might not be matched in 80 more Masters.

CBS commentator Faldo, of course, hails from England. He is the only other player from the country to win at Augusta, and he did it three times.

Willett’s 67 matched what Faldo shot in ’96 when Norman staggered to five over in the last 10 holes.

Spieth also shot five over in the stretch.

Willett said his wife, Nicole, was born 28 years ago, on April 10, at a time close to when he secured the green jacket.

The couple’s first child, son Zachariah, originally was due to be born Sunday, but arrived on March 30 via C-section, which allowed Willett to play the tournament when he might have otherwise skipped it.

“I’m not quite sure which is better, this day or last Tuesday,” he said with a soft smile. “I don’t know which one I should say to be politically correct. . . . It’s been an incredible 12 days.”

Willett said that because he was home helping his wife tend to their son, he didn’t get the same practice in, and he didn’t leave England until Monday.

Because he was the last to arrive at Augusta, his caddie got the final white jumpsuit — No. 89, the same worn by Jackie Nicklaus in his dad’s milestone 1986 victory.

Faldo said on Sunday’s broadcast of the ’96 drama, “Just because Greg was having a tough time doesn’t mean it was totally given to me. I had to put a score on the scorecard.”

Willett probably will answer the same. He didn’t make his first birdie until the sixth, but notched four more over the last 11 holes.

Spieth all but drowned his chances at the elbow of Amen Corner with two ugly shots into the Rae’s Creek for an eventual quadruple-bogey seven at the par-three 12th.

Subsequent birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 teased the hopeful patrons, but a bogey at 17 ensured the loss.

Willett was coming off a birdie at 14 to get to four under when he heard the gallery groan as Spieth’s score, after 12, was changed from a red “5” to a red “1.” Less than an hour before that, Spieth made his fifth birdie on the front nine at No. 9 to storm to seven under.

“I was waiting for someone to, as a little joke, put that seven back up there,” Willett said with a smile. “It was one of those things — that hole will do it. It’s one of the toughest par threes in golf.”

Willett was showered with appreciation from fans when he walked up the hill at 18, but it was a nervous par he made because he didn’t know if it would hold up.

He watched the television in the scoring room, talking to his wife, able to celebrate only when Spieth bogeyed the 17th.

“The line was a bit crackly,” Willett said. “I’ll obviously call her after this if she’s still awake. I’m sure they will be.

“I’ve got massive thanks for everything that she does for me. You know, take this little green jacket back for her.”