Danny Willett becomes ninth defending Masters champion to miss cut

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/pga/players/9611/" data-ylk="slk:Danny Willett">Danny Willett</a> struggled in his Masters title defense. (Getty Images)
Danny Willett struggled in his Masters title defense. (Getty Images)

One year ago, Danny Willett was the toast of Augusta National.

One year later the defending Masters champion is simply toast.

The 29-year-old Englishman became the ninth reigning green jacket owner to miss the cut the year after he won the Masters and the first since Mike Weir in 2004. Willett missed the cut by one stroke after shooting +7, a total that included a disappointing six-over 78 on Friday.

Willett’s performance on the first and last holes of the day proved to be his undoing.

Willett took a quadruple bogey out of the gate after shanking his second shot on No. 1 . From there, it turned into an adventure, one day after recording a double on the same hole.

Willett also missed a par putt on No. 18, which would have ultimately given him a pass to play on the weekend instead of sitting around and waiting to award a green jacket to the next winner.

Without the dual debacles on No. 1 — a hole that decimated more than a few rounds the first two days — Willett would actually be in OK position for the weekend, a fact he was choosing to find solace in after Friday’s round.

“We’ve played pretty good,” Willett said on Friday afternoon, before his fate was officially known. “If we could take back a couple of shots, obviously … There’s a lot of good in there [but] it just doesn’t matter, really. This is a results-based sport”

Eight previous defending champions have missed the cut since it was established in 1957 and by definition it’s an impressive group of names*. None other than Jack Nicklaus became the first member of the group in 1967 after a nine-bogey 79 in the second round put an end to his quest for three straight Masters championships.

Other multiple winners haven’t been immune to a letdown either. Seve Ballesteros missed the cut after both of his titles and Nick Faldo missed three straight cuts after winning in 1996.

*The full list: Nicklaus (1967), Tommy Aaron (’74), Ballesteros (’81 and ’84), Sandy Lyle (’89), Ben Crenshaw (’96), Nick Faldo (’97), Jose Maria Olazabal (2000) and Mike Weir (2004).

That Willett failed to mount a stiff defense of his green jacket doesn’t come as a huge surprise. He was listed at 125-to-1 odds entering the tournament and hasn’t done much to dispel the notion he was a right-place, right-time winner after Jordan Spieth’s meltdown on No. 12 last year.  It was also just his third time playing in the tournament.

Following his Masters title, Willett finished T-37 at the 2016 U.S. Open, T-53 at the Open, T-79 at the PGA Championship and went 0-for-3 at the Ryder Cup. The biggest headlines he made was when his brother Peter classified American golf fans as “fat” and “stupid” during the Ryder Cup.

Willett hasn’t been much better in 2017. While he finished T-5 at the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur, he hasn’t finished higher than the T-39 he took at Match Play.

“It’s been a tricky 12 months,” Willett said.

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