Patrick Reed strengthens hold on Augusta Masters, leads Rory McIlroy by three

Patrick Reed’s 5-under par 67 for a 14-under total of 202 was his third straight round in the 60s and more than enough to keep him atop the Augusta Masters leaderboard, even as Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm all posted 7-under par 65s.
Patrick Reed of the US celebrates chipping in for an eagle on the 15th hole during third round play of the 2018 Augusta Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on Saturday.(REUTERS)
Patrick Reed of the US celebrates chipping in for an eagle on the 15th hole during third round play of the 2018 Augusta Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on Saturday.(REUTERS)
Updated on Apr 08, 2018 02:24 PM IST
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Augusta (Georgia) | By Joy Chakravarty

This would have been the tastiest battle of the Ryder Cup in Paris later this year. But the Golfing God seems to be smiling early on the fans as American Patrick Reed and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy moved into what should be a mano-a-mano contest for the Green Jacket after Saturday’s third round.

The 27-year-old Reed continued his sizzling form at Augusta National, making two eagles in the space of three holes – on the 13th and 15th holes – in his round of five-under par 67. That took him to 14-under par total, three shots ahead of McIlroy, who carded a stunning seven-under par 65 on a day when incessant rains softened the course thus making the conditions easier than the previous two rounds.

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Reed is looking for his first major title, while McIlroy has four, but a Masters win will give him a career grand slam. The 29-year-old world No7 had come agonisingly close to making the 2011 Masters his first major victory before a heart-breaking meltdown on the back nine on Sunday.

American Rickie Fowler and Spain’s Jon Rahm, also looking for their first major wins, matched McIlroy’s 65 to become the closest threat to the duo on nine-under and eight-under par respectively.

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It will be a case of fire meeting fire on a Masters Sunday. Reed became known for his fiery attitude on the golf course when beating Henrik Stenson in the singles of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, a match during which he shushed the partisan crowd. McIlroy repeatedly screamed at and incited the vociferous American crowd at Hazeltine two years later in a match he lost to Reed.

The American never backs down from a challenge and McIlroy will definitely be a tough one tomorrow. But Reed is looking beyond a single person in pursuit of a Green Jacket.

“There’s a lot of stuff you can do at the Ryder Cup that you can’t do at Augusta National,” he said. “I’m not out there to play Rory. I’m out there to play the golf course.”

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The mind games have already started. Both insisted that the pressure will be on the other player.

After his round, McIlroy said: “I’m really excited to go out there tomorrow and show everyone what I’ve got, show Patrick what I’ve got. All the pressure’s on him… I’m hoping to come in and spoil the party.

“He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him that are pretty big time players. He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight.”

And Reed replied: “I am leading. I guess there is pressure. But at the same time, he’s trying to go for the career Grand Slam. You can put it either way.”

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McIlroy was leading by four shots going into the back nine in 2011 when he made a triple bogey on the 10th hole after hooking his tee shot. He just could not come back after that.

Sunday will be his opportunity to make amends.

“Hopefully, I can put into practice everything I learned seven years ago,” said McIlroy, who made an eagle on the par-5 eighth and five birdies in a bogey-free round. “I’ve been waiting for this chance.”

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Four-time champion Tiger Woods failed to make a move on the Moving Day, an even-par 72 improving him to tied 40th place at four-over 220, 18 shots behind leader Reed.

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