The history of the Masters is littered with improbable collapses. On Sunday, Jordan Spieth became the latest golfer to nosedive at Augusta National Golf Club. The 22-year-old squandered a five-shot lead on the final day of the 2016 Masters, opening the door for Danny Willett to win his first green jacket on the famed Georgia course.
At five under for the tournament, Willett finished three strokes ahead of Spieth and Lee Westwood:
Spieth looked to be free and clear after closing out the front nine with four straight birdies. Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins knew it was way too early to begin Spieth's coronation, though:
The tweet proved prophetic as the reigning champion bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes and unraveled on No. 12. His drive ended up in the water, and following a drop, he chunked his third shot, not even watching the trajectory of the ball as it landed in the hazard for a second time.
Spieth eventually settled for a quadruple bogey on the hole, which dropped him from five under to one under for the tournament. Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee provided Spieth's shot tracker for the hole, which didn't make for pleasant viewing:
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports saw similarities between Spieth's final round and another historic Masters collapse:
Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry didn't take the news well when made aware of Spieth's quadruple bogey, per Julie Phayer:
CSNBayArea.com caught Curry's reaction from the moment teammate Andre Iguodala told him what happened:
As a result, Willett climbed into first place. Although the circumstances surrounding his win will unquestionably overshadow the victory itself, the 28-year-old deserves credit for what was an excellent round. Willett's five-under 67 tied for the lowest score of the day, and he avoided picking up any bogeys.
According to Golf Channel researcher Justin Ray, Willett entered elite company:
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel was quick to recognize what was a fantastic performance, independent of Spieth's troubles:
Nobody is happier about Willett's win than his brother, PJ:
The stress wasn't over for Willett after he entered the clubhouse with the lead. He had to watch Spieth wrap up his round and hope the two-time major champion couldn't close the gap. Spieth gained a bit of ground with a birdie on No. 15 and headed to the 17th tee down two shots, via the tournament's Twitter account:
However, a bogey by Spieth on 17 all but ended the drama. Willett was following the action on TV, and once he knew the green jacket was his, he shared an embrace with his caddie in the clubhouse, via GOLFonCBS:
Spieth was far from the only golfer who watched his fortunes change drastically over the course of the final round.
Smylie Kaufman was one of the more pleasant surprises during the third round. He played his way into contention with a three-under 69 on Saturday, sitting just one shot back of Spieth through 54 holes.
Kaufman buckled under the pressure in the final round, though, shooting nine over on the day. Carding four bogeys on the front nine all but dashed his hopes of winning the Masters. SB Nation's Adam Jacobi described Kaufman's day perfectly:
Hideki Matsuyama and Bernhard Langer were both tied for third after the third round. Matsuyama couldn't find a groove Sunday and shot one over, while Langer's bid to become the oldest major champion in modern golf history fell well short. He shot seven over to fall all the way down to 24th.
Even without Spieth's back nine, the Masters had already witnessed history, with three different golfers—Davis Love III, Louis Oosthuizen and Shane Lowry—picking up holes-in-one on No. 16:
Willett is the second Englishman to win the Masters, with Nick Faldo being the other. Faldo's last win came in 1996, a Masters most remembered for Greg Norman surrendering a six-shot lead on the final day.
The bulk of Willett's success has come overseas. The Masters marks his first tournament win of any kind on the PGA Tour, and it's just the fifth time he has finished in the top 10. His Augusta triumph might be the spark necessary for him to become more of a fixture in the United States.
For Spieth, the question will be how quickly he recovers from this disappointment. His loss Sunday doesn't even compare to 2014, when he had a share of the lead going into the final round but finished tied for second.
As much as this tournament will sting, the final results confirmed Spieth is still the best golfer in the world when he's on top of his game. And it's worth noting that Tiger Woods' third major victory—the 2000 U.S. Open—didn't arrive until he was 24 years old, two years older than Spieth.
Spieth has a little over two months to stew over Sunday's outcome before heading to Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, for the 2016 U.S. Open.
"It was a really tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I never experience again," said Spieth after his round, per Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press (via PGA.com).
He also explained what happened on the fateful 12th hole: "It was a lack of discipline to hit it over the bunker coming off two bogeys, instead of recognizing I was still leading the Masters."
Spieth had the unenviable task of presenting Willett with his green jacket. Willett understood how difficult the situation was for the defending champion.
"As you can imagine, I can't think of anybody else who may have had a tougher ceremony to experience," he said, per USA Today's Christine Brennan. "It was very tough given it was so soon after the finish, but he handled it with extreme class, and I felt that I stood up there and smiled like I should and appreciated everybody who makes this great tournament possible."
Willett talked about how the round unfolded, per the Telegraph's Oliver Brown:
It was tough. Every time we seemed to make ground, Jordan pulled ahead. We were trying to dig in and dig in and make birdie after birdie. I thought we had to get to six or seven under, then I looked at the leaderboard and he was already at seven. It was just a very surreal day, when you look back at the ebbs and flows.