Patrick Reed sheds underdog tag to clinch maiden major at Augusta Masters
Patrick Reed’s feistiness in team events has earned him the nickname ‘Captain America’. On Sunday, he showed the same never-say-die attitude in winning the Masters – his maiden victory in a major championship.
Repelling one charge after another on his lead, the 27-year-old American managed to hold on for a one-stroke win over Rickie Fowler after shooting a one-under par 71 that included several clutch pars and birdies just when he needed them. A former student of Augusta University, the American finally graduated to become a Master.
Reed finished on 15-under par 273, while Fowler’s weekend rounds of 65 and 67 helped him climb up to second place at 274. Jordan Spieth (64), champion in 2015, weaved together a most magical round to be nine-under par for the day after 16 holes, but a bogey on the last left him third at 13-under.
Starting the day three shots ahead, the first onslaught was carried by his playing partner Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman, who was attempting to win a career grand slam this week, parred the opening hole as Reed made a bogey after both players hit wild tee shots. Then, McIlroy hit two great shots to five feet on the par-5 second, but missed the eagle attempt to draw level with Reed. He then bogied the third, and it was the end of his challenge.
But Reed’s biggest challenge came late in the round by Spieth and Fowler.
Spieth was magnificent as he went out in five-under par 31 after starting the day nine shots adrift of the overnight leader. He then ramped up the pressure with birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes, but needing a birdie on the last to tie the all-time lowest round in a major, his tee shot clipped the branch of a tree on the 18th and he wound up with a bogey.
Fowler, still searching for his first major win, was one-over after seven holes and seemingly out of the equation. But he then unleashed a flurry of birdies – six in the last 11 holes including the last – to set the clubhouse marker on 14-under par.
Reed was lucky his approach shot on the 13th did not end up in Rae’s Creek, hit a stunning second shot to the 14th green for a birdie to reach 15-under, and was lucky his putt on the 17th hit the flagstick and stopped nearby when it looked like speeding off the green. On the last, faced with a tricky, downhill 25-feet putt, he calmly two-putted for par to stay ahead of Fowler.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said the five-time champion on the PGA Tour. “It’s just a way of God basically saying, ‘Let’s see if you have it’.
“Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent. But do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?
“Before this, I put too much pressure on myself. I tried so hard to hit the perfect shots. This week, I said, ‘Hey, it’s golf. Go play. Be you.’ I was able to stay in that mindset the entire week.”
Fowler, whose wait for a major win continues, said: “It’s going to hurt, but I try and look at things more as glass-half-full. Obviously, I want to be the one standing on top after the four rounds, but this is, if anything, a step forward and makes me feel better about going forward into our next major, the US Open. I feel like this is a year to knock off our first.”
After playing one of the best final rounds in the 82-year history of the tournament, Spieth said: “I look back, and, man, I did everything right. I think I’ve proven to myself and others that you never give up. I started nine shots back and I came out with the idea of playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it.
“I almost pulled off the impossible. I had no idea. When I finished on 18 and finally looked at the board, I could have been in the lead by two and I could have been down four – and neither one would have surprised me.”
McIlroy (74) eventually wound up tied for fifth place at nine-under par alongside Henrik Stenson (70), Bubba Watson (69) and Cameron Smith (66). Spain’s Jon Rahm (69) was alone in fourth place at 11-under par.