Defending Masters champ Danny Willett among those leaving Augusta National early

Masters 2017 Danny Willett Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Defending Masters champ Danny Willett among those leaving Augusta National early

PGA Tour

Defending Masters champ Danny Willett among those leaving Augusta National early

AUGUSTA, Ga. –In 2004, Mike Weir missed the cut at the Masters a year after winning the green jacket at Augusta National. And for 12 years, Weir held the not-so-gratifying honor of being the last defending Masters champion to miss the weekend the following year.

On Friday, Weir passed the torch.

Danny Willett, who a year ago had tamed the demanding yet beautiful Augusta National layout better than anyone, found himself on the other side of the ledger this year. He opened in second round with a shank and a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 first hole, and then carded a 6-over 78 to finish at 7 over and miss the cut by one.

“There’s a lot of good in there, it’s just unfortunate,” said Willett, who missed his seventh cut in 24 starts since winning last year’s Masters. “Unfortunately, we are a results-based game and the results haven’t quite been there.”

The silver lining for Willett?

“You’re still a Masters champion,” Willett said. “There’s still pressure that you put on yourself and that people I guess put on you to kind of play well.  It’s been a tricky 12 months, but we haven’t played great golf, but, by the same token if you look at the career that we’ve had, we’ve not really had a slump in form in two years. We’ve had two fabulous years.

“And when you have a little bit of a downturn and it feels like the world is coming to an end.”

Another Masters champion – two-time, in fact – experiencing a lengthy slump also missed the cut Friday. Bubba Watson, who won green jackets in 2012 and ’14, shot 74-78 to finish at 8 over. It’s his first MC at Augusta in nine starts.

Watson’s emotions got the best of him after his round, too.

“Golf is tough,” Watson said to a media member. “I don’t know if you’ve ever played it. But writing articles is easy.”

Watson later apologized for his remarks – and his “bad” play – on Twitter.

Other golfers joining Willett and Watson as they exit this 81st Masters:

Henrik Stenson, ranked fifth in the world, who went 77-75 to miss his third straight Tour cut.

Alex Noren, the world’s 10th-ranked player, who shot 74-78.

U.S. Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed, who still can’t seem to figure out Augusta, carding rounds of 76-77.

Former Masters champions Zach Johnson, Sandy Lyle, Mark O’Meara, Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal and Weir.

And amateurs Brad Dalke, Scott Gregory and Toto Gana.

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