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GOLF: 'Big Three' diminished at Masters, Ryder Cup debut on cards for Willett

Jordan Spieth reacts on the 18th green during the final round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.

“Big Three” diminished at Masters

Allan KELLY, Agence France-Presse

The emerging “Big Three” of golf left Augusta National and the Masters on Monday less big than when they arrived a week earlier.

It’s true that at the halfway stage on Friday evening Jordan Spieth was leading by one stroke from Rory McIlroy and Jason Day was still in the hunt for a green jacket near the top of the chasing pack.

But all three came to grief at one stage or another over the weekend as England’s Danny Willett pulled off an upset win in the first major tournament of the year.

Spieth went closest out of the three heavyweights of the game’s new stars, but his fall was the heaviest and hardest to take.

Leading by five strokes going around the turn he came to grief around Amen Corner, bleeding six shots along the way, four of which came after two hits into the water at the par-3 12th.

The 22-year-old defending champion was visibly shaken when he came off the 18th tee, tied for second place and questions were asked over how much damage will have been done to his hitherto solid mindset.

At least Spieth has no Masters monkey on his back having won at Augusta National last year. The same cannot be said of McIlroy, who once again failed to get the best out of having a golf game perfectly suited to the course.

McIlroy said he feels sure that he is not in danger of turning into another Phil Mickleson, who has won three of the four majors but finished second six times in the US Open, the only one he has yet to win.

Australian Day does not have that problem as he won back-to-back tournaments ahead of the Masters. But his recurring problems with back pain appeared to hold him back at Augusta, especially over the back nine.

(READ: Jordan Spieth: Where does he go after epic Masters meltdown?)


Danny Willett celebrates at the green jacket ceremony in front of Jordan Spieth after the final round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.

Ryder Cup debut on cards for Masters champion Willett

Tony Jimenez, Reuters

Danny Willett’s surprise victory at the 80th Masters has almost certainly secured him a rookie appearance for Europe’s Ryder Cup team in September.

The 28-year-old Englishman, who took advantage of American Jordan Spieth’s spectacular back-nine meltdown to win by three shots at Augusta National on Sunday, has leapfrogged Rory McIlroy at the top of the Ryder Cup qualifying list.

Rank outsider Willett’s victory also sent him into the world top 10 at number nine after entering the week ranked 12th.

Willett swing works well under Masters pressure

Andrew Both, Reuters

Danny Willett’s Masters victory was built on the back of a steady display in every facet of the game, rather than outright brilliance in any one area.

Willett has a very repeatable swing that more often than not stands up under the heat of being in contention.

“He has a very strong action, repeatable with good shot shape and has a very good understanding of his own swing,” Ian Baker-Finch, a former British Open champion who was part of the CBS commentary team at Augusta, told Reuters.

Willett is no slouch off the tee, but his driving distance average of 279 yards at the Masters was 20 yards less than category leader Dustin Johnson.


Jason Day walks off the 18th green after the final round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.

Day, Johnson hopeful despite another Masters miss

Jim SLATER, Agence France-Presse

World number one Jason Day and two-time major runner-up Dustin Johnson couldn’t make their Masters breakthroughs Sunday, but both departed Augusta National with confidence their green jacket time will come.

The two played alongside each other in the third-to-last pairing during the final round of the 80th Masters, but neither was able to mount a serious charge at the title won by England’s Danny Willett after defending champion Jordan Spieth’s quadruple-bogey nightmare at the par-3 12th.

“I’m sure he’s killing himself for it. But we all do it to ourselves,” Day said. “Hopefully he just learns from it and gets better and comes back stronger.”

Spieth’s disaster left him level second with England’s Lee Westwood and meant Australia’s Day would keep the top ranking despite sharing 10th on one-over par 289.

“I just didn’t feel quite comfortable with my swing,” Day said. It’s hard to get anything going from there once you do that. My short game was still going well, especially the putting. So I just need to tidy up the long game a little bit.”

Johnson shared fourth on one-under 287, but was proud of the way he fought back after a double bogey at the fifth.

The 31-year-old American birdied three of the next four holes and birdies at the par-5 13th and 15th had him within reach of Willett before a double bogey at 17 ended his hopes for his first major title.

“I’m doing all the right things,” Johnson said. “I hit it in all the right spots. I hit some great shots. I’m definitely pleased with the way I played.”

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