Danny Willett takes Masters title as pressure tells on Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy couldn’t mask his disappointment as his latest bid for Masters glory and a golf career grand slam of majors at 26 fell short again at Augusta last night.
The former world No1 from Holywood shot another inconsistent Masters round of 71 yesterday to finish one over par for the tournament which he began with expectations high, both personally and among his vast worldwide fan base.
Instead McIlroy could only look on as unfancied Danny Willett surged through the field for an incredible victory.
Sheffield golfer Willett took advantage of a last day collapse by favourite Jordan Speith, leader for the first three days, taking advantage where McIlroy could not.
And after his intense preparation in order to conquer Augusta, and become only the sixth player in history to complete the grand slam, McIlroy admitted he felt mental, rather than playing, pressure weighing on him.
He said: “I was in a great position going into the weekend. On Saturday I just didn’t play the golf I needed to when it really mattered. That’s what I take away from this week. I’ve been in a position before and I haven’t got the job done when I need to and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my game.
“I think that’s more me mentally and I’m trying to deal with the pressure and the thrill of the achievement if it were to happen. I don’t think that’s the thing holding me back. So the more times I can get in position to win this tournament, the more times I’ll learn and I’ll know what not to do. And I feel I learned a lot yesterday, reflecting on it and that hopefully I’ll do things differently.
“This is the one I want to win more than anything else.”
New dad Willett immediately contacted his wife on Skype and said: “Facetiming your wife on her birthday after you’ve just won the Masters, on the due date of you son, who if he hadn’t been born a week early, would have made you miss the Masters... Wow!”
Willett from south Yorkshire, who played on the same Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team as McIlroy at Royal County Down nine years ago, emerged from virtually nowhere to win the first major the season while McIlroy’s challenge never materialised although he finished four under on the back nine — but well down the field.
Willett (28) with just four wins on the European Tour to his career was magnificent in the final stages. He started the round on level par but finished on five-under — ahead of close pal and playing partner, Lee Westwood.
Augusta National was stunned. Willett, the son of a Maths teacher — his dad is a preacher — turned professional in May 2008, the year after he won the English amateur, and earned his European card the following year.
But over the last two years he has been showing signs that he was someone special and this remarkable victory means he moves into the world’s Top 10.
With his wife pregnant at home in Yorkshire he was in two minds about whether he should travel to the States. She gave birth in good time however.
Spieth seemed a certain winner at one point when he was seven-under.
He looked home and dry, but it all started to go horrible wrong after the turn, falling to one under after 12 where he ended up in the water, not just once, but twice. He pulled a shot back, but at that stage Willett began to move out of sight and Spieth who went into the final round three clear just couldn’t catch up.
Willett becomes the first the Englishman to win the green jacket since Nick Faldo in 1996.