Sheffield's Danny Willet wins the 2016 Augusta Masters
PUBLISHED: 12:24 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 17:55 25 April 2016
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The 28-year-old Sheffield winner of the Masters 2016, Britain's first Masters win in 20 years, says his achievement still hasn't sunk in.
Thank goodness Zachariah James Willett is a bit of an early bird, otherwise his proud dad wouldn’t be sporting a rather snazzy new green jacket.
Sheffield golfer Danny Willett was supposed to be with his wife (and occasional caddie), Nicole, as she gave birth to their first baby on April 11th but, after his son made a slightly premature debut on March 29th, he decided to take a crack at the 80th Masters title instead.
The 28-year-old was the 89th and last player to register at Augusta National, but took advantage of a dramatic collapse from defending champion Jordan Spieth, who then had to present him with the famous green jacket.
‘It’s just crazy, just surreal,’ said Danny, after a flawless closing 67 gave him a three-shot victory over Spieth and playing partner Lee Westwood. ‘Words can’t really describe the feelings and emotions. I’ve won a couple of golf tournaments around the world, but this is just a different league. It’s a major. It’s the Masters.
‘It’s just been the most ridiculously awesome 12 days. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling. It’s just been incredibly surreal.’
Spieth birdied four holes in a row from the sixth to reach the turn with a five-shot lead and seemingly guarantee he would join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in winning back-to-back Masters titles.
However, the world number two – who’d led for seven rounds in succession following his wire-to-wire victory last year – then dropped shots at the 10th and 11th and ran up a quadruple-bogey seven on the 12th after hitting two balls into Rae’s Creek in front of the green.
The Masters title is Danny’s first major and marks the highlight of his career so far. The Rotherham Golf Club member’s first breakthrough came in 2007 when he won the English Amateur Championship and played in the same Walker Cup team as Rory McIlroy.
He turned professional in 2008 with a handicap of plus five and, in the same year, earned his European Tour card via the qualifying school.
Despite a recurring back problem, his first European title came in 2012 at the BMW International Open, followed by wins in 2015 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and Omega European Masters, as well as a creditable sixth in the Open at St Andrews to finish second in the Race to Dubai.
Danny, whose father is a vicar, won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February this year, but looked set to miss the Masters in Georgia as his wife was due to give birth on the last day of the tournament.
But, thankfully, Zachariah made sure his dad was able to card a final round of 67 to win by three shots, becoming only the second English winner after Nick Faldo and the first European to claim a green jacket since 1999.
And Sheffield – the greenest city in Britain – couldn’t be prouder.
Later, Danny’s parents Elisabet and Steve, speaking on BBC Breakfast, recounted their emotions throughout the weekend of the tournament. ‘It’s all rather surreal. I keep grinning like a Cheshire cat all the time,’ said Elisabet. ‘He phoned us at half past three. We thought he was drunk but I think he was absolutely ecstatic.’
Danny Willett’s former mentor and coach said he was pleased as punch about the golfer’s victory. Graham Walker, 57, began coaching Danny when he was 15 years old and watched him become the number one amateur in the world and win his first victory on tour. He said he showed a thirst for knowledge, a desire to work from a young age and was driven to succeed.
Danny is a member of Rotherham Golf Club where captain Steve Mulligan said his victory was not a surprise. He has been a member since 2005 and is an inspiration to the junior members of the club. ‘It’s fantastic news. But it’s not a surprise. Members here even had a small wager on him to win.’ w