By Evin Priest

The drama. Augusta National’s back nine certainly delivers it each year. Could you have scripted this one? No way.

England’s Danny Willett both contributed to, and survived, the mayhem to win his first Major championship at The Masters with a 72-hole total of 5-under par.

Twenty years after countryman Nick Faldo broke Greg Norman’s heart win his third Masters in 1996, Willett fired a sizzling final round 67 to win the green jacket by three shots over compatriot Lee Westwood and defending champion Jordan Spieth.

Starting the day in the lead at 3-under, Spieth looked to have shut the gate in playing a stunning front nine of 32. But starting the back nine at 7-under, Spieth imploded – he bogeyed 10 and 11, before a disastrous quadruple-bogey 7 with two balls dunked in the water at the infamous par-3 12th. Panic stations were high.

And there stood Willett, the European Tour star and world No.12 biding his time with a 2-under front nine of 34. As Spieth collapsed, Willett swooped. He grabbed birdies at 13 and 14 to take a lead of two over Dustin Johnson, who replied with a screamer second shot at the par-5 13th. But as it did all day, DJ’s putter deserted him and the best he could do was birdie to reach 3-under.

Willet, 28, stuck it close at the par-3 16th and collected another birdie. He parred in, walked off the famous 18th green with a big smile, and waited…

Waited for Spieth, who was not done yet. The defending champion showed fighting spirit and pulled it back with two birdies at 13 and 15. But a bogey at the par-4 17th was the killer blow and Willett and co celebrated in the clubhouse, knowing a breakthrough Major had arrived.

“It’s been crazy; I can’t really describe the emotions or feelings. But someone has got to win and fortunately today was my today,” he said in the famous Butler Cabin. “It was tough; every time we made ground, Jordan seemed to pull ahead. It was a very surreal day when you look back at the ebbs and flows.”
Runner-up Spieth, naturally, was shattered after his round: “Yeah it’s tough,” he said, holding back tears. “Pretty sure I’ll be disappointed with that one.”

Spieth admitted he “probably should’ve gone over to the drop zone” at the par-3 12th.

“Compounded mistakes, lack of discipline and a couple of weak swings in a row and (suddenly) I’m not in the lead anymore. It was a very tough 30 minutes for me that hopefully I never experience again.”

But in the end, a worthy champion was crowned and the “tradition unlike any other” delivered a feel-good story. A father-to-be, Willett was not going to play The Masters as his child was due to be born during the final round. But he and wife Nicole welcome baby Zachariah James Willett on March 31, so the tour pro headed down to Georgia.
Nicole Willett celebrated her 28th birthday this morning, and cradling her bundle of joy was able to FaceTime her newly-crowned, Masters champion husband, from back in England.
 “It’s been a crazy, crazy week,” said Willett. It was, indeed.
World No.1 Jason Day was the only Aussie in the top 10, in a share of 10th at 1-over par with Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker and Daniel Berger. Willett’s countryman Lee Westwood finished runner up with Spieth at 2-under, while a three-way tie for fourth saw J.B. Holmes, Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey come in at 1-under par. The top-10 was rounded out by Matthew Fitzpatrick, Soren Kjeldsen and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama in a share of seventh at even par.