Defending Masters champion Danny Willett misses cut after quadruple bogey eight on first

James Corrigan
Danny Willett faced an awkward stance on the first - REUTERS

But for that damnable first hole, Danny Willett would be on the outskirts of contention here at the 81st Masters.

Instead, the Englishman has become the first defending champion to miss the cut in more than a decade.

Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, will know how he feels. Willett will remain in town for the weekend, because of his responsibilities to put the green-jacket on his successor.

However, the 29-year-old from Sheffield will believe he should be playing, having only missed by one on seven-over after a 78. Willett will long berate that wicked opening hole, with its treacherous green. Two pars there and he would be on opne-over.

On Thursday, Willett recovered from an opening double-bogey to shoot a 73. Yesterday, he made the rescue that much more difficult by posting a quadruple bogey. As it is, Willett is prone to chatter long, hard and sometimes loud, but this time his babbling to his caddie, Jonathan Smart, was off the charts as he trudged off the green. But then, there was plenty on to which reflect and wonder.

His drive ended up above the fairway bunker on the right, leaving him an almost impossible stance, with one foot in the trap. Rather inevitably, he “hoseled” it straight right and nearly toppled into the sand as he did so. From the trees, he struck it too sweetly and it rolled over the green.

His first chip went up the slope and back down and then his next went past the flag and off the front. He then pitched up to six feet, before missing the putt. A deflating eight.

Danny Willett beat Jordan Spieth to the title last year Credit: AP

Yet Willett was determined to put up a fight for his title and was one-over for the next 16 holes. Willett arrived on the 18th thinking a birdie would definitely see him safe, but he blasted it into the trees.  After chipping out, his third from 100 yards was wonderfully played, to four feet. Willett duly missed the par putt and ultimately the third and fourth rounds and his disgust was clear.

“If the drive on the first was a foot off the edge of the trap,” he said. “If it goes in the bunker it’s not too bad; if it goes a foot right you can get a stance. Not the best start. I played some pretty good golf in the middle there and couldn’t hole a bean. You’ve seen on the last there, I had a chance to salvage something from a tricky day.”

It could have been worse; he could have been Tyrrell Hatton. The world No 15 had arrived at his first Masters with so much hope. But a 78 to go with his first round 80  left the Wycombe 25-year-old stranded on 14-over. It was a harsh lesson.

Hatton was in good company, other than the amateurs and former champions who are really only here for the giggles and the memories. In his own threeball, the Open champion, Henrik Stenson, crashed to a 75 and an eight-over total and so continued his baffling record at Augusta. The world No 5 is Mr Solid everywhere else. Here the ice-cool Swede turns into Mc Blancmange. In 13 visits, his best finish is a tie for 14th.

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