The Masters: Rory McIlroy couldn't resist starting the mind games with Patrick Reed ahead of Sunday showdown
"All the pressure's on him."
Rory McIlroy knows as well as anyone that Patrick Reed is a gutsy competitor. The pair met in spectacular fashion at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Reed and McIlroy were pitted against each other in the leadoff singles match and it didn't disappoint, with the pair going hammer-and-tongs in a scintillating match.
McIlroy and Reed were the two best performers at Hazeltine that week and they duly shattered lofty expectations as they set Hazeltine alight.
McIlroy produced his best stuff that afternoon in the Minnesotan sunshine, but Reed matched him every step of the way. In fact, he bettered the Northern Irishman, eventually prevailing 1-up after an incredibly intense match when Reed happily fuelled the partisan crowd.
Tomorrow, they meet again, in different but equally enthralling circumstances. Reed holds a three-shot lead over McIlroy after a superb Saturday at The Masters. McIlroy played out of his skin to secure his place in Sunday's final pairing with the fiery Texan, carding a bogey-free 65 which was his best ever round at Augusta.
Playing just behind, Reed was not to be outdone that easily, pulling eagles out of the bag at 13 and 15 en route to a 67. On paper, Reed's lead looks commanding, but McIlroy knows full well how difficult closing out a Masters is.
In 2011, he famously collapsed on the back-nine, recklessly frittering shots away having held a four-shot advantage overnight.
On Sunday, one feels McIlroy will relish being the one doing the chasing. Every department of his game seems to be in fine working order and the 28-year-old knows that the Reed, chasing his first major, will be feeling the heat as the roars begin to reverberate around this famous layout.
And just to add a bit more pressure, McIlroy used his own harrowing experience to highlight the task facing Reed.
"It’s massive [to get into final pairing]," McIlroy told CBS.
"This is my first final group here since 2011 and I feel like I learned an awful lot from that day. I’m really excited to show Patrick Reed what I’ve got tomorrow. All the pressure’s on him tomorrow.
"I know what it’s like to be in that [Reed’s] position. It isn’t easy, especially if it’s your first time. I’m going to free wheel it and play like I have nothing to lose, everything to gain."
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 7, 2018
Classic mind games. Not that we blame him for a bit of gamesmanship. He knows Reed isn't going to let his grasp on that green jacket slip easily but, you get the feeling, that if Reed falters, McIlroy will be there to pounce. He's looked as good as anyone this week and, with that brilliant win at Bay Hill still fresh in the memory, that re-captured killer instinct may stand him in good stead going down the stretch on Sunday evening.
Whatever happens, it's been a fun ride up to this point and we're expecting nothing less than a mouthwatering battle between these two once again.