As the golf season officially began in most people’s eyes last week at Augusta National, there was a palpable excitement to see both the game’s young and seasoned stars play at the game’s greatest venue. Golf’s brightest stars: Jason Day, Rory Mcilroy, Rickie Fowler, and the defending champion Jordan Spieth, were all having great years, and came down Magnolia Lane feeling great about their chances to don the coveted Green Jacket.
As the week began, experts and casual golf fans alike made their “picks” for who they thought would win, and anticipated Thursday morning—a chance see major championship golf for the first time in nearly eight months.
The tournament began on Thursday, much as it had left off last April, with Spieth playing nearly flawless golf and proving that the championship would once again prominently involve the young Texan. Jordan opened the tournament with rounds of 66 and 74, which was good enough for a one stroke lead over Rory, and guaranteeing a Saturday afternoon tee time featuring two of the best players in the game.
Unfortunately, for those of us wanting to see the two battle it out, Mcilroy struggled early, and seemed incredibly uncomfortable with his game in the biggest spotlight in golf, en route to a disappointing third round 77. Spieth also showed signs of discomfort, as he finished bogey, double-bogey, to shoot 73 in extremely difficult conditions. Going into the final round of the tournament, Spieth held a one shot lead over Smylie Kaufman (yes you read that name right), a three shot lead over Day and Dustin Johnson, and a five shot lead over Mcilroy. The forecasts for Sunday showed a respite from the windy conditions that were present all week, and playing conditions would be ripe for birdies.
Any questions about Spieth’s game and swing, with the way he ended Saturday, were quickly answered Sunday afternoon, as Jordan fired a 4-under 32 on the front nine, to go to 7-under for the tournament and to gain a 5 shot lead with 9 holes to play. With the history of Jordan Spieth’s closing ability on his side, this tournament seemed all but a formality from there.
But then, as is so often the case, Augusta and it’s difficult Amen Corner (holes 11,12, and 13) provided drama. Spieth began the back 9 by bogeying 10 and 11, while his nearest competitors, a few holes in front of him, began to make birdies in bunches. Spieth went into hole 12 clinging to a narrower margin but still looking like he was the surefire champion. However, what happened next was unthinkable: Spieth hit his tee shot in the water on the difficult par 3 and then proceeded to hit another ball in the water, on his way to making a quadruple bogey 7.
All of the sudden, with Danny Willett birdieing 13, 14, and 16 a few groups ahead of Spieth, to go to 5 under, Spieth found himself 4 shots down, with 6 holes to play. Remarkably, after that unsettling hole, Jordan fought back to birdie holes 13 and 15, but his comeback effort would ultimately fall short as he failed to birdie any of the remaining holes and bogeyed the 17th. This epic collapse, along with the outstanding play of Englishman, Danny Willett, decided the outcome of the championship.
Willett, with his strong final-round 67, secured his first Masters and major championship of his career. Unfortunately for him, the 2016 Masters will not be remembered by his stellar play, but by Jordan Spieth’s collapse.