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Willett Wins Masters; Defending Champ Spieth's Game Collapses On 12th Hole


Louis Oosthuizen had a hole-in-one at the Masters yesterday - not just any hole-in-one. His ball rolled across the green, slapped another player's ball and then angled perfectly into the hole. And that was not even such a big deal, given the incredible drama at yesterday's Masters. NPR's Tom Goldman is here to talk about it. Hi, Tom.


INSKEEP: So what overshadowed that?

GOLDMAN: Well, you mentioned Louis' hole-in-one. We should say there were two other hole-in-ones.


GOLDMAN: So three on the same hole, in the same round - never happened before - but, yes, a secondary story. For those who missed it, the quickie synopsis - American Jordan Spieth - he's the defending Masters champion and the young man who appears destined to lead men's golf out of the Tiger Woods era. He had it, and he lost it. And, I mean, he really had it. He was up five shots, nine holes to play, and then he really lost it. This tournament will forever be remembered for Spieth's collapse on the par-three 12th hole. He hit two balls in the water. He took a 7, 4 over par. With that, he lost the lead and never recovered. Englishman Danny Willet moved to the top of the leaderboard, held on for his first major championship title.

INSKEEP: You know, I was watching this on TV, Tom. And I don't want to say I saw it coming, but you had this feeling. Speith had one birdie after another on the front nine. Something had to give, and he's heading into that amen corner. It's such a beautiful stretch of holes, but anything can happen, and, gosh, anything did.

GOLDMAN: And it did, yeah. It really did. Golf - do you golf?

INSKEEP: Oh yeah. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Are you a good golfer?

INSKEEP: No, not that great.

GOLDMAN: Sure you are. Don't be modest.

INSKEEP: No, but I played all my life. Anyway, go on.

GOLDMAN: You know that golf can be an incredibly cruel game. Your round can change with one swing, and that's what happened to Spieth. As I mentioned, teeing off on 12, that was the first ball in the water. That started the disaster. Here's how he described it afterwards. And notice, Steve, how incredibly composed he sounds after the shock wore off. Here he is.


JORDAN SPIETH: At the time, you're going to throw all bad swings away, and you're just going to focus on how confident you can step into that shot. And that's what I did, but the swing just wasn't quite there to produce the right ball flight.

GOLDMAN: The swing wasn't quite there. In fact, he struggled with his swing throughout the tournament. You wouldn't know it by the leaderboard. He led the whole way through until the end. And you might not be able to see it with the naked eye. These guys swing so fast. But a good golf swing, as you know, is so exact. And if anything is off, the ball doesn't go where you want it to go. Spieth's swing coach - he left Augusta, but he even came back before the final round to try to help Spieth fix the problems.

INSKEEP: Not enough, and Danny Willet was the guy who took advantage.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, and let's give him some credit. Spieth blew it, but while Spieth was in the process of blowing it, Willet was playing really consistent, error-free golf. He didn't have any bogeys yesterday. A bogey, for those who don't know, remember, is one over par on a hole. And that's a testament to Willet's consistency, his great play when it mattered most. And it'll be interesting to see how this affects his play. The win moved him to ninth in the world rankings. This should give him a lot of confidence going forward.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm remembering a player, gosh, from when I was a kid - Tom Weiskopf, who I believe had a 13 on that same hole at the Masters, which then becomes part of his image. It's part of what you know about him. What does it do to Spieth to have a collapse like this?

GOLDMAN: He says it'll hurt. It'll take a while to get over, but he's so smart about the game. He plays with the wisdom of how to both hit a golf ball and manage his way around a golf course. I think he'll be fine. And I'm sure one of his rallying cries will be, remember Arnie in 1962. That's when Arnold Palmer won the Masters a year after blowing it on the final hole of the tournament.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.