AUGUSTA, Ga.—Jordan Spieth was on the most impressive run in Masters history ... and then he hit the second nine on Sunday, handing the green jacket (literally and figuratively) to England's Danny Willett.
The 22-year-old had all but locked up his second straight green jacket on Sunday afternoon, leading the field by five strokes at the turn. And then came Amen Corner, and one of the most improbable Masters finishes in history.
Spieth, who had birdied the final four holes of the first nine, bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11, and then imploded on the 12th, putting two shots in the water and sinking any real hopes of a second consecutive green jacket. It was a collapse as stunning as it was sudden, a heartbreaking unraveling that left him and the gallery grasping for answers.
Willett, who, began the day three strokes behind Spieth and didn't even record his first birdie until the sixth hole, shot a 5-under 67 to win by three shots over Spieth and Lee Westwood. Willett joins Nick Faldo as the only Englishman to win the Masters.
For Spieth it was his second runner-up finish in three Masters appearances, though he expected it to be a second green jacket.
"I knew the lead was 5 with nine holes to play," Spieth said after. "And I knew that those two bogeys weren't going to hurt me. But I didn't take that extra deep breath and really focus on my line on 12. Instead I went up and I just put a quick swing on it.
"... Big picture, this one will hurt. It will take a while."
Prior to the disaster, Spieth had it rolling, recoding four straight birdies to finish the front nine. After nine, Spieth sat at minus-7, five strokes ahead of the field and on the verge of the first back-to-back, wire-to-wire victories in Masters history.
[Slideshow: Best of the Masters final round]
Even after the back-to-back bogies at the 10th and 11th, Spieth still held a one stroke lead over Willett.
But on 13 Willett began a stretch of three birdies in four holes, while behind him Spieth started to unravel.
And just like that, Spieth's lead had become a four-stroke deficit.
"It all happened very, very quick, obviously," said Willett, who almost skipped the tournament because his wife gave birth to their son on March 30. "We went from behind to obviously two in front. It was all a bit surreal.
Across Augusta, there were plenty of roars, many coming from 16 where three aces were recorded, capped by a bank-shot by Louis Oosthuizen that must rank as one of the most improbable in Masters history. It's strange to say any ace at Augusta is merely an opening act, but that was the case for the two shots by Shane Lowry and Davis Love III. No round of golf at the Masters has ever seen three aces.
No round of golf at the Masters has ever seen a collapse quite like Spieth's, 32 out and 41 coming back in. The the insult to injury came when he, as the defending champion, was tasked with putting the green jacket on the new champ, not once but twice – first in Butler Cabin for the TV audience, then on the practice green for the patrons.
It'll be a long time before any golf fan forgets how this Masters went down, longer definitely for Spieth.
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