IN A PHENOMENAL final round, Patrick Reed managed to out-run a star-studded chasing pack to take home his first green jacket and major championship after posting a round of one-under par to finish one shot above Rickie Fowler to post an overall score of -15. Most notable in the final round was two sensational rounds of -8 by Paul Casey and Jordan Spieth, the latter running Reed close to the very end of his round but eventually running out of holes in which to make gains.
Holding back a sly smile during the customary interview and ceremonial handing over of the green jacket, Reed described his experiences of sinking his putt on the 18th hole at Augusta National but for long moments it looked as though he might get pipped to it by the man who was described by former Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, as “the best competitor in golf”.
This man was aforementioned fellow Texan and 2014 Masters champion, Jordan Spieth, who posted a scintillating round of 64 to equal the record score of a final Masters round and one shot away from the course record of 63. With Jordan’s record around Augusta National one of the best in world golf, it looked inevitable when Spieth levelled the scores up at -14 under a piece on the 15th hole. But with two holes to go, the 2014 champion showed a rare piece of bad play on the final hole when she sliced his tee shot into the trees which then dropped before the fairway even began. This culminated in a bogey 5 to put ideas of a course record-equalling 63 round out of reach. There were triumphs nonetheless, with Spieth purposefully over-clubbing the 12th hole, the dreaded middle of Amen Corner and avoiding a repeat of his infamous quadruple bogey on the hole in the 2016 Masters which lost him his chance at a second green jacket to Yorkshireman and 80-1 outsider Danny Willet. Spieth even went on to birdie the hole with a great putt from the rough.
Reed, who went to university in Augusta, played a very spotty game with a one-under 71, his worse score of the weekend, cutting it very fine to win the tournament that he lead from the second round. But it was his recoveries from a spate of bogies that proved his major-winning credentials. A opening bogey 5 on the 1st was swiftly followed by an excellent 3 on the Par 4 3rd and ,true to the form that the eventual champions had posted in his previous three rounds, flustered on his Par 3s with another bogey at the 6th after two dismal shots: a poor shot off the tee and then a horrendously overhit long putt. Few would have predicted anything other than a repeat of the 2016 Ryder Cup “shushgate” scandal which has put him in the bad books of many a European golf fan. But in the end, the Northern Irishman’s challenge never materialised after Reed restored his three-shot lead after an excellent fairway bunker shot on the 8th hole whilst McIlroy floundered, taking four shots to get on the green of this Par 5.
Towards the end of the McIlroy and Reed’s front nine, the foretold battle had evaporated into a Reed versus the chasing pack mentality with the latter containing Fowler, Rahm, Spieth and McIlroy all on -10 for the tournament.
In the end it all came down to the final hole, the 465-yard Par 4 named “Holly” after the plant of which the hole has become associated in Augusta National’s past life as a plant nursery. After a late rally from Rickie Fowler, a par was needed from Reed to reach golf’s promised land and prevent a play-off. Those who expected this to be a formality were given a scare after Reed hooked his tee-shot left and then placed his attempted iron shot in the second cut on the left of the green. But as he had done for the entire weekend, Reed two-putted after rolling his first putt past the hole then sinking the resulting three-footer to secure his first major championship.
There will be those who berate Patrick Reed for the many controversies that he has been involved in over his career but that doesn’t take away from a fantastically fought victory that Reed has put in to win his green jacket. Holding off the modern king of Augusta and the major-winner in waiting that are Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler is no mean feat and this needs to be acknowledged. This American trio will all be looking to follow their form in the next major of the year: The Open Championship in Carnoustie on July 19th.