Patrick Reed holds his nerve to win The Masters after sensational showdown with Spieth and Fowler
As Rory McIlroy faded into the shadows, we were treated to a Masters finale to remember.
After a gripping, emotionally draining Sunday at Augusta, Patrick Reed was the last man standing. The fiery Texan held his nerve down the stretch, holding off a spirited surge from his compatriot Jordan Spieth to clinch his first major title and etch his name into the history of this great tournament.
But it was some journey to get there. Reed, having held a three-shot advantage over McIlroy overnight, handled the pressure admirably down the stretch as Spieth sent defeaning roars reverberating around the course time and time again.
And, as McIlroy crumbled, Reed stood firm, responding commendably to Spieth's miraculous charge to land the green jacket.
Reed, a brash and alienating figure, probably won't be the most popular champion to grace the hallowed fairways of Augusta National, but he certainly produced a brand of golf that reinforced his reputation as one of the gutsiest competitors on tour.
It was a struggle at times but, as McIlroy looked increasingly loose and ragged, dejected and without hope, Reed conjured something time and time again from somewhere. Reed started with a birdie but got it back at the 3rd. When he dropped one at six, he bounced straight back on the next.
The nerves looked frayed on 11 when he dropped his third of the day but, when he drained a fantastic putt across the 12th green for birdie, Reed released a spine-tingling "C'MON" accompanied by a fist pump. At that point, it felt as though the stars were aligning in his favour.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) April 8, 2018
Spieth kept coming though. The 2015 winner, looking like a man possessed, screamed to the turn in 31 before lighting it up on the back nine. He sunk a monstrous putt at 12 for birdie, followed it up with a tremendous birdie at the par-5 13th. Parring 14, he kept it going with another birdie at 15 before he sent the gallery into hysterics at 16, tramlining a nerveless put for his ninth birdie of the day.
It would have been a brave man to bet against him at that point but, clattering his drive into the trees at 18, Spieth proved he was human when he missed his par putt to leave him in the clubhouse at -13 after a closing 64.
Rickie Fowler, determined not to be the bridesmaid in the majors once more, displayed tremendous courage, too, launching a dart into the 18th, sinking the putt to leapfrog Spieth into second.
With all the focus on Reed and Spieth, Rickie came out of nowhere. With just the one blemish on his card, Fowler registered six birdies for a stellar 67 and piled the pressure on Reed in the pairing immediately behind.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 8, 2018
But Reed refused to give in. The 27-year-old sunk his par putt at 17 to ensure he walked up the last hole with the lead. At 18, with unbearable tension pervading the atmosphere, Reed fired his second to the left edge of the green, leaving him a devilishly quick putt down the slope. He had two putts to win and needed both of them, staying cool to sink the return effort and become a Masters winner.
In the end, when all was said and done, you can't begrudge Reed his victory. He was sublime over the four rounds. But, one thing's for sure, we can be glad we got a proper shootout down the stretch when there was always a slim chance that Reed would run away with things. He didn't and we were treated to some truly spellbinding sporting theatre as a result.