AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sunday’s final-round showdown between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose at the Masters was supposed to be a four-way shootout. But someone forgot to tell Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Playing in the second-to-last group — Fowler beginning the day in third place one shot back from the lead, Spieth in fourth place and two shots back — the two phenoms sprayed the ball all over the course on Sunday, both ultimately finishing in a tie for 11th place at 1-under for the tournament.
Fowler remained in contention through the front nine, but collapsed on the back en route to a 4-over 76. He carded five bogeys and only one birdie on the back nine, finishing his tournament with three consecutive bogeys and a 40 on the final nine.
“Chipping and putting kind of went sideways on me,” said Fowler, 28, who still has yet to win a major.
Spieth, meanwhile, was in a chipper mood despite shooting a three-over 75. He fell out of the race on the front nine by shooting a 38, then added two more bogeys and a double through 14. But Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, ended his tournament with three birdies on the final four holes.
“It was the most free that I’ve ever felt at Augusta National. And so be it that I end up shooting one of my worst rounds,” Spieth said. “Not going to beat myself up whatsoever over today. I was very happy with the way I struck the ball.”
The tie for 11th is the worst finish for Spieth in his four Masters starts. He finished second, first, and second in his three previous appearances, and should have won another green jacket in 2016 if not for a historic collapse on the back nine that included a quadruple bogey on the par-3 12th hole.
This year, Spieth carded a par in each of the first three rounds on 12, but he once again hit his tee shot into the water on Sunday en route to a double bogey.
Spieth said on Saturday he had hoped that he and Fowler would push each other to greatness on Sunday, and he felt a little bad that he fell out of contention early and took the mojo out of the group.
“If I was able to hang in there and we were able to feed off each other, then we would have been able to push through like you saw Sergio and Justin able to do today,” Spieth said. “The stage wasn’t too big, it just didn’t quite happen.”
Ace in the hole
This year’s Masters almost lasted the entire tournament without a hole-in-one, but Matt Kuchar, playing in the seventh-to-last group on Sunday, pulled off the ace on the 170-yard 16th hole.
The dramatic shot put Kuchar into contention briefly before Garcia and Rose pulled away. But the shot punctuated a terrific day for Kuchar, who shot five-under 67 to finish in a tie for fourth place.
“It’s funny, that hole has given me problems in the past,” Kuchar said. “I typically play a fade and to that left pin, [and] I seem to be on the right side more often than not with very challenging 2-putts. And I said this year, go ahead and release it, don’t worry about the water, and just flushed a shot that went straight at it and it looked great the whole way.”
Video: Kuchar’s hole-in-one
After celebrating his shot, Kuchar signed the ball and handed it to a young boy in the gallery.
“I’ve got enough hole-in-one balls. I don’t save them,” Kuchar said. “So I figured this would make a kid’s day and make a kid’s year.”
Danny Willett shot 7-over in the first two rounds of the Masters, becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut the following year since Mike Weir in 2004.
But Willett couldn’t simply move on to the next tournament. He had to wait around for Sunday’s closing ceremony to put the green jacket on this year’s winner.
So what do defending Masters champions do when they have a few days to kill and need to prepare for next weekend’s event, the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C.? They play golf, of course.
Willett had a 10:10 a.m. tee time Sunday morning at Forest Hills Golf Club, about four miles away from Augusta National. According to the London Daily Mirror, Willett posed for pictures in the pro shop.