|The Masters, Augusta, 6-9 April|
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We’ve all done it.
With darkness falling, and your parents calling you in for tea, you squeeze in one last penalty to win the FA Cup, one last drop-kick to win the Rugby World Cup, one last putt to win The Masters.
Two Yorkshiremen had those same moments growing up around Sheffield in the early part of the century. This time last year, they made one a reality.
Danny Willett may have hit the drives and holed the putts that made him the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1996 to win the Masters and don the famous Green Jacket, but his caddie Jonathan Smart is claiming a bit of the credit.
In a documentary – When Danny Won The Masters, to be shown on BBC Two at 15:00 BST on Sunday, 2 April – the friends share their memories of an unforgettable Sunday afternoon playing the back nine at Augusta National.
Willett, playing with fellow Englishman and friend Lee Westwood, began the final round three shots adrift of defending champion Jordan Spieth, who was four groups behind him on the course.
The 29-year-old, who was only playing in the tournament because his son Zachariah was born a week early, takes up the tale on the 10th tee…
Danny: We were two under through the first nine but we were still three shots behind Jordan.
Jonny: We made an unbelievable par save on the ninth; it was the smelliest nine-footer down the hill and it kept us going. Then we had our funniest moment of the week walking down the 10th fairway. Danny said: “We’re in contention on Sunday at the Masters.” We were like little kids. We were laughing, not in disbelief, but at realising the situation we were in.
Danny: I hit two lovely shots on 10 and made par.
Breezing through Amen Corner
Danny: Everyone knows how difficult 11, 12 and 13 are with the wind swirling between the trees. I hit two lovely shots on 11 and made par, found the front edge on the par-three 12th and made par. We stepped on to the 13th tee and Jordan had birdied the eighth and ninth and stretched out to a five-shot lead.
The tee shot on the par-five 13th is really difficult for me because I hit a fade and it needs a draw. We hit three wood all week and almost played it as a three-shotter, but on Sunday Jonny and I said, ‘If we’re going to do anything we need to try and force it a little bit’. So I stepped up and gunned it. A little five-yard draw with the driver round the corner.
Jonny: Dan is adamant that was his best shot of the week.
Danny: I then hit five iron to the middle of the green and had a two-putt birdie but while I was doing that, Jordan had bogeyed 10.
Willett gets within one
Danny: I hit a nice drive down the right on 14 and a wedge to four feet and made birdie again. Jordan bogeyed 11.
Jonny: It was a four-footer that was straight downhill but I wasn’t sure if it was going to break, it wasn’t obvious. Nothing is said, we both know we’ve got to keep pushing. Those two holes were massive for us.
Willett improves to -4, Spieth drops to -5
Spieth sinks on the 12th
Danny: The next time we see the leaderboard, Lee Westwood has just chipped in for eagle from the back of the 15th green to get within one of us.
Jonny: Everything went ballistic. We had another birdie chance but that shot from Westy brought another player into it. I had goosebumps because the fans on the 16th can also see everything and the sound was ridiculous.
Danny: I had a 10-12-footer from the back edge. I thought that was to tie the lead. I missed it but tapped in for par. John put the flag in, walked back, said ‘that was a good effort’ and then we heard all the oohs and aahs from the gallery.
Jonny: I’ll never forget walking to the 16th tee. I saw people in the gallery putting their head in their hands and we turned around and saw they were changing the big scoreboard.
Danny: It’s just off the back right of 15 and Jordan had gone from five under to one under on the par-three 12th and we were at four under. So we looked at each other and waited for them to change the score because we thought they’ve got it wrong. After five or 10 steps, we realised we were at four, Westwood at three and Jordan at one.
Jonny: That’s when things got a little bit more interesting.
Five good swings with shaking hands
Danny: I’d been dying for the bathroom so I ran down past the 16th tee and everyone’s saying ‘look at the leaderboard, you’re leading the Masters’. I’m in the bathroom and my hands are shaking and I’m nervous but thinking ‘this is what you practise for’.
I kept telling myself, five good swings, see if you can hole a couple of putts and we’ll see what happens. When I came out, I was in the best frame of mind I’d been in for a long time. Mentally I was seeing everything as it happened and I wasn’t getting too far ahead.
Jonny: There was no discussion. If we acknowledge the position we’re in, we’re admitting we’re nervous, so how is that going to help? We stick to our routine. We had 181 yards to the flag. An eight iron. We created a picture, just like we do on every shot.
Danny: I hit a lovely eight iron to about 10 feet.
Jonny: I walked off ahead as soon as he hit it. I’m pretty excitable and I didn’t want him to see any emotion I’m giving off. Walking to the green there was no discussion. Everyone’s telling Danny ‘this is yours’ but he probably didn’t hear any of it. He was ridiculously focused.
Danny: We rolled in our birdie putt.
Jonny: The putt on 16 was all him. When he has a good line, why would he call me in? It only creates doubt.
Danny: Westy hit it to 35 feet and three-whacked, so all of a sudden we’ve opened a bit more of a gap. In the past 45 minutes, we’d gone from five behind to two in front. It was bonkers.
Jonny: On the 17th tee, I consciously said to Dan that these guys behind us are good and capable of making four birdies in a row.
Danny: I hit not a bad tee shot but was a bit hindered by a tree for the second and I hit eight iron long left. Looking back, I left myself a really tricky chip.
Jonny: I was thinking ‘there’s loads of green to work with’ and it was a bog-standard chip shot. It got to the top of the hill and I thought ‘he’s not hit that hard enough’ but it rolled over and then I thought ‘that’s quick’ but it finished stiff and I thought that wasn’t an easy chip shot!
Danny: I chipped it pretty much stone dead, which, round Augusta, you don’t do. I’m going to go back this year and put a ball down and just see how difficult it is.
Driving down the corridor
Danny: We’d hit a little cut driver off the 18th tee all week but we were pretty pumped with adrenaline and Jonny called three wood.
Jonny: My book said 296 yards to reach the bunker, so it’s not hard to hit a good drive straight into it. He’s got a low ball flight so he couldn’t have done what Sandy Lyle did out of that bunker and reach the green.
Danny: He said: ‘You can hit three wood as good as you like and you’re never ever going to reach those bunkers.’
Jonny: Everyone was hustling to get a place to stand.
Danny: There was a lot of commotion. I stepped off the tee twice because people are moving up the sides, through the leaves, through the trees.
Jonny: That tee shot to me looks like hitting down a hotel corridor and I’m thinking it’s getting narrower. Third time he’s pulled the trigger.
Danny: I hit it 295 yards, straight down the middle of the fairway. Again, the hands were shaking, everything was shaking, but the walk up to the second shot was pretty enjoyable.
Jonny: There’s a dip down before you walk up the hill to the green. As we got to the bottom, he took a massive deep breath. I knew he was nervous so I just said to him: ‘You don’t need to take that deep a breath, it’s not that big a hill.’
Danny: I’d done 80% of the job I told myself I had to do – to make five good swings. One more to go. I think we had 183 yards, Jonny will still know. Can’t miss the green left, can’t miss it short, can’t miss it long. I’ve seen it millions of times on the television, where it’s impossible to get up and down from, and where you can give yourself a bit more margin. I pushed the seven iron a bit but it pitched on the collar of the green and worked off the bank back down exactly as I’d seen it before.
Jonny: The walk up to the green was an unbelievable experience. We were having a little giggle to ourselves, saying ‘this is pretty cool’. I wish I’d taken it in more.
Danny: It was almost job done. We’ve got a 13-footer to get to six under, which I thought would be a difficult number for anyone to get to. But we get up on the green and look at the putt and you think it would be nice to get to six but I don’t want to drop to four. So I cosied it down there and tapped in for par.
Jonny: The walk from the green to the clubhouse was bonkers. It was bizarre, surreal. It’s stuff you watch on television and don’t do yourself. We’re walking off 18 and half-thinking we’ve won the Masters.
Danny: My father-in-law was at the back of the green, giving me a hug. You walk up to the cabin, sign your card [a bogey-free five-under-par 67], making sure you’ve got all that right and then it’s a waiting game. We had 45, 50 minutes of waiting.
Jonny: I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was half-watching, half-wondering if we should go the practice range in case there’s a play-off.
The winning moment
Danny: We sat outside the recorders’ hut and I’m trying to call [wife] Nic. The signal’s not great, I’m just trying to get through to her. And I’m texting my mum and dad and brothers. But I’m constantly looking at the television to see what Jordan does.
Spieth birdies the par-five 15th to go three under with three to play.
Danny: You’re going over all the scenarios where you can get beat. And then he made bogey on 17. He dropped back to two under and it’s a physical impossibility to tie.
Jonny: I didn’t realise the cameras were there and I just jumped on him.
Danny: I was on the phone to Nic, and Jonny jumped on me on the sofa. Everyone’s seen that on the TV. That was the moment you realise that’s what you’ve worked for and what you’ve just achieved. It isn’t a dream. It’s come true.
‘Dan’s putting a Green Jacket on’
Danny: Every major trophy is significant in its own way but the Green Jacket is special. It’s having your locker in the champions’ locker room. It’s your jacket being in there for the rest of your life. It’s being able to go back to Augusta forever, until you don’t want to play any more. The ceremony in Butler Cabin. You don’t get to go inside the places I got to see at Augusta unless you win at Augusta. I’m honoured to be part of that now.
Jonny: We were whisked round the back of the clubhouse to Butler Cabin. That was cool. You’ve watched it on TV and then we’re doing it. Dan’s putting a Green Jacket on. I remember them fitting it because they’ve got them all lined up. Before he went in the room he looked across at me, just laughing. It was nuts. We’ve all had putts as juniors to win the Masters. I always dreamt about doing it but it was mega to be as close as I was to it and have some sort of contribution to Dan winning it.
Danny: When you walk through the door at home, you’re not Masters champion any more. You’re dad, or Dan. You’re straight back to changing nappies and you take the jacket off so you don’t get anything on it. The only time I’ve watched it back was that evening. I opened a beer and sat on the sofa with Nic. Watched it for an hour and a half. Highlights of what we’d done two days before. Just a crazy old few days really.