Willett's glory daze
There was a point when Danny Willett was not even sure if he would be taking part in the Masters this year.
On Sunday night, his name was etched among the greats of golf as the Sheffield star came through on the final round to become the hero of the hour.
A week ago, Willett’s wife Nicole gave birth to the couple’s first child and before then there was a genuine chance that the 28-year-old may not make it to Augusta, with Sunday being the baby’s due date.
One ‘C’ section later, a couple of sleepless nights and a week’s worth of practice and Willett became the first Masters winner from these shores since Nick Faldo, 20 years ago.
“It has been crazy I can’t really describe the emotions and feelings, someone has got to win and fortunately today it was me,” he said.
“My wife was born in ten minutes’ time 28 years ago, my son was due today and born early to let me come and play – talk about fate, it has just been a crazy week.”
First battling Jordan Spieth then Worksop’s Lee Westwood, it was Willett who came out on top on a dramatic day which had seen defending champion Spieth throw away a commanding lead.
Spieth birdied four holes in a row from the sixth to reach the turn with a five-shot lead and seemingly certain to follow Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in winning back-to-back titles at Augusta National.
“It was tough, Jordan kept pulling ahead and I had to dig in and dig in,” added Willett.
“I thought we needed to get to six or seven. It was a surreal day with ebbs and flows. I was fortunate that the shots we hit were correct and I holed putts when I needed to.
Lee Westwood played the final round alongside his stablemate Willett and was within a shot of the lead when he chipped in for an eagle from the back of the 15th green.
However, the former world No.1 – who already held the record for the most top-three finishes (eight) in major championships without winning one – then three-putted the 16th and had to settle for a closing 69 and a share of second with Spieth.
“It’s a fine line between disaster and success and it happened to Jordan,” Westwood said. “Anything can happen at Augusta.”
England’s Paul Casey carded the lowest round of his Masters career, a 67, to achieve his best finish with a tie for fourth alongside Johnson and JB Holmes, with Matt Fitzpatrick also shooting 67 to finish a shot further back with Soren Kjeldsen and Hideki Matsuyama.
‘’I played really well tee to green and gave myself lots of chances, that was the big thing,’’ said Fitzpatrick, 21, who missed the cut by a shot in 2014 after qualifying by winning the US Amateur title.
‘’I had a lot of putts between six and 15 feet and certainly on the back nine decided to hole them and that was the difference.”
Rory McIlroy, who went into the third round a shot off the lead but faded with a 77 on Saturday, carded a closing 71 but admitted he had felt the pressure of trying to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
“I was in a great position going into the weekend and I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it really mattered,” said McIlroy, who finished joint 10th with Justin Rose, Daniel Berger, Brandt Snedeker and world No.1 Jason Day.
“That’s the thing that I take away not just from this week, but from previous Masters.
“I’ve been in position before and I haven’t got the job done when I needed to and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my game, I think that’s more me mentally – I’m trying to deal with the pressure of it and the thrill of the achievement if it were to happen.
“I think that’s the thing that’s really holding me back.”
DANNY WILLETT IN SEVEN FACTS:
Danny’s father Steve is a Church of England vicar
His wife Nicole gave birth to his son Zacharia just days before this year’s tournament began
Willett was introduced to golf by his two older brothers
In 2008 he became the number one ranked amatuer golfer in the world
Danny was just eight-years-old the last time a British golfer – Nick Faldo – won The Masters
He won for the first time on the European Tour in June 2012 at the BMW International Open in Cologne
In his teens Willett spent two years playing for Jacksonville State University in the U.S.A.