Reed holds off hard-charging Spieth and Fowler to win thrilling Masters
Reigning Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler charged up the leaderboard on the final day at Augusta but fellow American Patrick Reed held his nerve to deservedly win his first major championship by one stroke at the Masters.
Reed held a three-shot lead on the field heading into Sunday, with second-placed Rory McIlroy – who was just a Green Jacket away from becoming the sixth man in history to complete a Career Grand Slam – expected to be his most likely challenger.
Instead Spieth, who started the day nine shots back at five-under, recaptured the sort of form that saw him lift the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale last summer to notch nine birdies in a round of 64 and post 13-under.
Perennial nearly-man Fowler went one better for the tournament and carded 14-under to finish as runner-up – his eighth top-five finish at a major, although his wait for a first victory goes on.
That’s because, despite a few wobbles – he bogeyed the first, sixth and 11th – Reed maintained his calm when it mattered most to end on 15-under and pull on the Green Jacket for the first time.
Impossible to put into words
Clinching your first major is never smooth sailing and Reed watched his overnight three-shot lead slowly get eradicated as the round went on.
However, each of the three times he made bogey, he impressively responded with a birdie within two holes to get back on track.
A lengthy downhill birdie putt at the 14th then moved him to 15-under and a gutsy two putt from off the green to save par on the 17th put him on the brink of victory.
However, Fowler – playing one group ahead – birdied 18 to leave Reed needing a par on the last and he eventually holed a tense three-footer to become a major champion for the first time.
Patrick Reed's life just changed forever.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 8, 2018
He will always be a Masters champion. pic.twitter.com/oV8vDChJKL
“I knew it was going to be tough – trying to close out any golf tournament is hard but to do it for your first major is even more so,” said Reed, who will head to Carnoustie in July looking to better his best Open finish of tied-12th in 2016.
“I knew the lead would shrink, that’s just the flow of golf. It was tough out there but to have a putt on the last hole to win my first major felt right. I was happy with how I hit that putt.
“It’s almost impossible to put into words what it means. Just to make the putt on the last and watch the ball go in the hole was incredible. It meant so much to me.”
Spieth and Fowler pile on the pressure
Trailing by nine strokes ahead of the final round, Spieth had barley been an afterthought in the conversation about potential winners.
But the Texan – winner of the Masters back in 2015 – put together one of the rounds of his life to post nine birdies, including a particularly satisfying one at the par-three 12th – the hole that was the main cause of his heart-breaking final-round collapse when leading by five shots in 2016.
Spieth becomes 7th player in #themasters history to shoot 64 in final round, joining ...— Mike McAllister (@PGATOUR_mikemc) April 8, 2018
Maurice Bembridge (1974)
Hale Irwin (1975)
Gary Player (1978)
Greg Norman (1988)
David Toms (1998)
Bo Van Pelt (2012)
However, a bogey on the 18th ended any chances of pulling on the Green Jacket for a second time, although the reigning Champion Golfer wasn’t too downbeat.
“I wanted to birdie the last hole to cap off a fantastic round but all in all it was a great day,” said Spieth.
“I was nine shots back, so it was about trying to shoot a good round but knowing that no matter how well I played, I needed a significant amount of help.
“With eight guys ahead of me, that’s highly unlikely. I wasn’t optimistic about pulling on the Green Jacket but the aim was to get in the top five and I’ve done that.”
Fowler’s long wait for a maiden major championship appears destined to end in the very near future and he gave himself every chance at Augusta.
The 29-year-old repeatedly scrambled to save par when not at his best on the in the early going before really hitting his straps around the turn – making six birdies in the final 11 holes to card a 67, forcing Reed to make par down the last.
When Rickie Fowler finally wins his first major — and he will — the line of his competitors waiting to congratulate him will be so long. pic.twitter.com/lwLkroPQIh— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 8, 2018
“The front nine was a bit stressful but the back nine was a lot of fun,” said Fowler. “To execute, to hit nice shots and make some putts was great.
“We had a chance to win here and I’m pleased with how I played.”
McIlroy fades in pursuit of Career Grand Slam
Heading into Sunday, McIlroy was many people’s pick to overturn a three-shot deficit and join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in securing the Career Grand Slam of winning all four majors.
There were flashes of the 2014 Champion Golfer’s brilliance – a majestic iron into the second and a pinpoint tee shot into the par-three fourth which both led to birdies – but five bogeys scuppered his chances of challenging playing partner Reed.
The Northern Irishman’s 74 left him on nine-under for the tournament – good enough for a tie for fifth but the 28-year-old would have been hoping for so much better.