A swathe of strong contenders allied to the iconic nature of the Masters had long made this edition, the 80th, one of the most eagerly anticipated Majors in years. But nobody could have foreseen the drama that would unfold over a spectacular final round on Sunday.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth looked certain to retain the Green Jacket after a strong front nine that included a blistering run of four successive birdies heading to the turn. Yet the golfing gods caught up with the American, who had been far from his best all week.
And while Spieth blew it by dropping six shots in just three holes, this should not go down as him losing the Masters so much as Danny Willett winning it. A tournament is 72 holes and the Yorkshireman, whose 67 was joint lowest of the final day, stood up when it mattered most.
Read more: Willett will be Ryder Cup asset for Europe
Willett was very solid throughout the four days, even when it must have dawned that a first Major title was in reach. When the pressure was highest he showed phenomenal mental strength to play the shot of the week, a chip from behind the green at 17 that only just ran past the hole.
He may not have been among the favourites but Willett has been steadily building up to this for some time. He pushed Rory McIlroy all the way in the Race To Dubai last year, and I think a key milestone was his win in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in late 2014. That was huge for him; it gave him so much self-belief. Willett is on a different level now and, at 28 years old, in the prime of his career.
Van de Velde's Carnoustie horror show
You have to feel sorry for Spieth. He was not at the top of his game and looked fidgety all week, repeatedly backing off shots. The Texan was far from the cool, calm figure who had enjoyed such a dominant victory just 12 months ago on his serene ascent to world No1 status.
Even though he remained in front for much of it, on Saturday and Sunday you could see that he was struggling. He suffered a bogey-double bogey finish to round three, and was relying heavily on his excellent putting. But then Augusta did what it can do to a golfer.
Spieth conceded afterwards that he’d been too aggressive at 12, where he ran up a devastating quadruple bogey. In his defence, though it is only 157 yards it is an extremely difficult hole and has been the nemesis of so many players over the years.
Read more: How Spieth matched Tiger's best
I’ve written before that we have seen a different, more human, side of Spieth this season, when things have not gone as smoothly as before, and we saw a different one still on Sunday. He was a nervous man, evidenced by his decision to summon his coach from Dallas on Saturday night.
McIlroy’s back nine collapse in 2011 has been the most infamous of recent times but Spieth’s was probably worse. After all, he had won it before and had led for seven consecutive rounds. It was almost reminiscent of Jean van de Velde’s Carnoustie horror show at the 1999 Open.
This will hurt Spieth for a long time, but he took the setback very well and seems to be a very strong, resilient character. Unlike McIlroy, who still bears the scars of his 2011 performance, he can draw confidence from the knowledge that he has won here before.
McIlroy undone by strategic failure
McIlroy, meanwhile, finished tied for 10th despite an error-strewn display. His course management was disappointing; as the week went on he seemed to be hitting the ball harder and harder in an attempt to overpower the course, but at Augusta you need to be more strategic.
Willett’s triumph crowned a brilliant week for English golfers. To have five men in the top 10 of the Masters – Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose also made it – is unbelievable. So well done England – and that’s a lot coming from a Scotsman.
I really thought Westwood’s time had finally come when his eagle dropped in at 15, but as so often seems to be the case at Majors he is pipped by someone playing fractionally better. It was encouraging all the same and a huge lift for his Ryder Cup prospects.
There is just one Englishman to end on, though, and that’s Willett. He’s a lovely boy and, falling on his wife’s birthday and days after he became a father, the victory must have felt like a fairytale. You simply could not have scripted it.