Padanilam: Willett deserves Masters credit
Benjamin Padanilam | Tuesday, April 12, 2016
The year’s first major championship came to a close with Danny Willett securing the first major of his career at this weekend’s Masters.
Yet, all anyone seems to want to talk about is Jordan Spieth’s disaster 12th hole and subsequent meltdown in the final round that led to him ceding his 65-hole lead.
Granted, Spieth’s collapse with another green jacket within his reach was shocking to say the least. Finding the water once? Unlikely. But twice? Impossible. Yet, against all odds and expectations, the normally imperturbable 22-year old fell apart by recording a quadruple bogey on a par three, turning his one-stroke lead into a three-stroke deficit in the blink of an eye.
And because of this, no one is giving Willett the credit he’s due.
Among the 57 golfers who made the cut and weathered the strong winds and tough playing conditions over the last rounds, Willett was the best, shooting a strong even-par 72 on Saturday and a five-under 67 on Sunday.
To put in perspective how difficult the conditions were — amongst other factors of course — 18 players shot at least five-under par for the tournament in last year’s Masters. And that was the mark that ultimately won this year’s grand event.
Sure, Spieth collapsed. But just as Spieth walked up to that ominous hole, Willet was finishing up the 14th hole with his second consecutive birdie and fourth on the day to narrow Spieth’s lead to one.
And while Willett played a bogey-free final round to work his way back up the leaderboard, Spieth struggled to find consistency throughout the day, as he notched four bogeys in addition to his dud on the 12th hole.
In a Masters where the winning score was worse than eight-under par for the first time since 2007, one shot on the final day wasn’t going to be the difference between a green jacket and falling short. Consistency ruled the day, and Danny Willett was king Sunday.
Because even if he hadn’t collapsed Sunday, Spieth would have still had to compete with Willett down the stretch, meaning it wasn’t necessarily Spieth’s tournament to lose when he walked up to the 12th tee box, as much as many people may like to think.
So let’s give Willett the credit he’s due for winning the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.
Now, Willett’s performance and Spieth’s collapse weren’t the only interesting storylines coming out of the tournament.
First, many people were surprised to see the likes of Ricky Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, amongst others, to miss the cut following exceptionally poor rounds by their standards.
Likewise, Rory McIlroy’s poor third round and Smylie Kaufman’s and Bernhard Langer’s strong third rounds made for an interesting leaderboard heading into the fourth day. You had the popular pick in Spieth followed by a group of old faces and relative unknowns.
Lost in it all was the fact that Tiger Woods wasn’t in the field. While no one expects him to be competitive should he ever make his comeback to the course, Woods always attracts fans and adds to the spectacle of the majors.
But on this weekend and in this Masters, the spectacle didn’t suffer without Tiger. Spieth and McIlroy heading into the weekend as leaders gave everyone the star power they sought, and Spieth’s collapse — as tough as it was to watch — became a storyline no one saw coming but everyone was talking about.
Ultimately, this weekend showed that golf can be in a good place without Tiger Woods, as the parity in the field and the notable stars to clamor about carry the game forward. This development has been in the works for a while, but it saw its full maturity this weekend. As a fan of Tiger’s play on the course, it’s hard for me to admit: Golf is moving on from Tiger, and its ultimately what will be best for the game going forward.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.