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Masters champion Willett on new high after becoming the daddy at Augusta

By Robert Jones

Danny Willett admits it is "mind-boggling" to have joined some of the greats in the game after clinching the Masters title, just 12 days after becoming a father for the first time.

The last man to arrive at Augusta National was the last man standing after a dramatic final round on Sunday, when Jordan Spieth looked certain to become only the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters titles before a stunning collapse around Amen Corner.

There was heartbreak for Spieth and also deep disappointment for Rory McIlroy, who admitted the pressure got to him.

Read more: So, just who is the new Masters champion?

McIlroy went into the third round of the Masters just a shot behind the defending champion but the two giants of the sport were brought down to earth by the 28-year-old son of a Sheffield vicar.

Willett's wife Nicole had been due to give birth to the couple's first child on Sunday, but the need for a C-section meant Zachariah James Willett arrived on March 29 to allow his proud dad to play in the year's first Major.

He was the 89th and last player to register after only arriving on Monday evening, meaning his caddie Jonathan Smart wore the number 89 on his white Masters jumpsuit, just as Jack Nicklaus' son Jackie did in 1986 when he caddied for his dad in that historic win.

Nicklaus wrote on Twitter: "What impressed me so much is that when he realised he was in a position to win, he finished it and that's the mark of a champion.

"To finish a good round, give yourself an opportunity to win and when the other fellow doesn't finish, you've got to be there. Danny Willett was and kudos to him. What an amazing couple of weeks for him."

Nicklaus' victory in 1986 gave him a sixth green jacket and 18th Major title and although such achievements may be beyond Willett, as they have proved beyond everyone else, the World No.9 is already targeting further titles.

"Hopefully I can be sat here again at some point in my life. That would be fantastic," Willett said after a flawless 67 ensured he took advantage of Spieth squandering a five-shot lead with nine holes to play.

"I can't put it into words. To win golf tournaments on tour is what we dream of doing. It's what you practice for and it's what you play for. You dream about these kinds of days and things like that, but for them to happen when there's only four (Majors) a year, it's still mind-boggling that we have been able to come through everything that's happened and play so well under the pressure."

The good news for Northern Ireland golf fans is that Willett is on course to play the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club from May 19-22.

Amid the euphoria of his stunning success, the first question to his manager Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler centred on whether the Englishman's plans for the season would change.

Chandler confirmed that Willett will tee it up in Straffan as scheduled.

"Danny is not going to change one bit. He is going to play in Switzerland, France, Ireland, the BMW, which is exactly the same schedule he had three months ago," said Chandler.

Willett's preparation had understandably been dominated by the birth of his son and he even contemplated only travelling to Augusta on Tuesday, despite having only played on the notoriously difficult course once before.

"I didn't do that great at the Match Play (failing to advance from the group stage in Austin) and flew straight home and then had Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday just doing nothing, helping Nic, making sure she's all right," Willett said.

"She had an operation to deliver Zach, so I was just at home making sure she was all right, changing nappies, making bottles, doing everything normal that a dad with a new son does, making sure that everything at home was fine so that I could come here with a clear mind.

"I started hitting balls again on Friday. I had a lesson Friday, a lesson Saturday, and again took time off Sunday to spend time with Nic and Zach and flew out here late Monday night.

"Fortunately I had done my homework last year. We played the golf course probably four or five times last year in preparation for the first Masters I played, and I think that put me in really good stead knowing that I had the books from last year and I knew where the places are to go, where not to go."

Spieth had enjoyed a wire-to-wire victory in 2015 and led outright after each of the first three rounds this year, only to collapse on the back nine.

"You can empathise with him," Willett added. "He's played great golf all week. He obviously plays this golf course incredibly well."

Belfast Telegraph

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