Patrick Reed wins The Masters 2018 despite Jordan Spieth charge
· James Corrigan, golf correspondent, at augusta
Alan Tyers, live blog
9 APRIL 2018 • 7:03AM
And there was Patrick Reed thinking he would have to bash down his Ryder Cup rival, not his Ryder Cup team-mates, to win the 82nd Masters.
Yet after Rory McIlroy’s pitiful surrender, it was Jordan Spieth who produced the miracles to push his American partner all the way to the line, before Rickie Fowler stepped in to keep Reed honest and demand that he par the 18th.
The tenacious Texan nervelessly made the four to taste the glory of his first major title. It was so well-deserved because, even if not McIlroy, then Spieth, with his 64, and then Fowler with his final-hole birdie, put their Team USA hombre firmly through the mill.
Alas, McIlroy only put his fans through the turbines, his game and particularly his putting, falling apart as he trudged in for a 74 and a tie for fifth on nine under. It was not the collapse of 2011, and will not be nearly as painful seeing as he has four majors, but this still represents a huge setback in his mission to complete the career grand slam.
Thank goodness for Spieth and Fowler, as without them, this finale would not have been anywhere near as exciting. Spieth played the miracle role, having given himself no chance at the outset of his round, saying it would be a “stress-free day as I’m out of it”.
But he piled on the pressure – on himself as much as anyone.
The 24-year-old began the day nine shots behind Reed and, when he went through his first 16 holes in nine under to tie the lead, it seemed as if he was to complete the biggest comeback in Masters history.
Reid, however, clinically birdied the 14th to pull clear and, when Spieth bogeyed the 18th, to miss the chance of recording just the third 63 at the Augusta major, Reid’s glory seemed more or less than confirmed.
But then Fowler decided to make it interesting, holing a 12-footer for a 67 and 14 under, which consigned Spieth to third.
Reed hit the green in two and made everyone a bit queasy by prodding his 20-footer more than two feet past. He holed, as anyone who has watched him in the Ryder Cup knew he would, and hugged his wife, Justine. Reed might not be universally popular, but nobody can doubt his competitive heart.
As Reed celebrated, McIlroy was left to reflect on what on earth had happened. He had looked so comfortable on the greens up to this point, building on his transformative display at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. The week before that win at Bay Hill, McIlroy had seemed completely flummoxed when missing the cut in Tampa Bay.
On the Monday, he sought out Brad Faxon, the former PGA Tour winner who is considered one of the game’s great players. After deducing that there was nothing wrong with the stroke McIlroy has forged under the guidance of Englishman Phil Kenyon over the past few years, Faxon picked apart McIlroy’s mental approach to putting.
The “chat” freed up McIlroy and suddenly the player who was ranked 124th in the PGA Tour strokes-gained putting stats was holing them from everywhere. He leapt to 24th in that putting chart, the best of his career to date and brought that confidence to Georgia. For three rounds, his newfound excellence endured.
He was the fourth-ranked putter for the week going into this final round. Alas, the old weakness was exposed under the pressure, as his entire game crumbled.
It was a nervy beginning for both as they drove into the trees.
McIlroy was the luckier, having a passage to the green. All Reed could see was wood. McIlroy escaped with par, courtesy of a decent six-footer, Reed made bogey and when, on the par-five second, the former hit it to four feet from 197 yards with his second, it appeared as if the Ulsterman would eradicate the deficit in less than half an hour.
Reed could only make par and giddying parity was surely next. McIlroy pushed his putt.
On the third, McIlroy missed a nine-footer, on the fifth a five-footer, on the sixth a nine-footer, on the eighth a seven-footer, on the ninth a nine-footer, on the 11th a five-footer. Of course, not all of these efforts were embarrassing, but a few were, and the point is he had been holing them for fun during his Saturday 65.
Be sure, this was a McIlroy capitulation on the greens. In fairness to his flat-stick – which, following this display, might need to find new employment after a month in the bag – other aspects of McIlroy’s game folded as well.
The drive into the trees on the eighth, which led to an unforgivable bogey on a par five; the timid approach from 130 yards short of the third green; the equally wretched wedge from 103 yards on the seventh.
Granted, there were one or two classic McIlroy moments, most notably the tee-shot to three feet on the fourth. But by the back nine, he was no longer in the top two and he had been replaced as the main challenger by Spieth and Fowler and others, including Jon Rahm, the 23-year-old Spaniard who shot 69 to finish fourth on 11 under, his best placing to date in a major.
For England, Justin Rose finished in 12th on six under after a final round of 69, while Paul Casey came 17th at five under after shooting a 65 which could have been truly memorable but for bogeying the last two holes.
Earlier, Tiger Woods had closed with a 69, his best round of the week, to ensure he avoided his worst finish at the Masters in 21 years as a professional. But his tie for 32nd hardly felt like a success after all the “greatest comeback” hype of the build-up. Instead, it was Spieth who lit up the Georgia sky with his resurrection.