By Jay Betsill
It was clear from the outset that this Masters Sunday was primed to take its place alongside the many legendary final rounds that have helped make this the biggest event of the year on the golf calendar.
When Patrick Reed teed off, it was evident that the patrons at Augusta National Golf Club and the sports fans on the various social media platforms were not on his side. Reed’s playing partner Rory McIlroy received a much louder applause from the patrons and as Masters Sunday continued, it was Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler who were getting the huge cheers at Augusta National.
In the end, it was Reed who slipped on the green jacket and saw his life changed forever as he is now a Masters champion.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “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?”
Spieth, winner of the 2016 Masters, began the day nine shots out of the lead and looked forward to a “stress free round” playing alongside his good friend Justin Thomas. That plan did not last long as Spieth put on a charge and tied Reed for the lead after draining a long birdie putt on No. 16.
A bogey on the closing hole for Spieth dropped him to 13-under and gave Reed some breathing room.
“I think I’ve proven to myself and to others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started the round nine shots back, and I came out with the idea of just playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it and try to shoot a low round and finish the tournament strong and see what happens, if something crazy happens.”
That breathing room however would be short lived as Fowler’s birdie on No. 18 would force Reed to have to par the final hole to win the title.
“He’s not scared. I think you guys have seen that previous from the Ryder Cups and the way he plays,” said Fowler, who closed with a 67. “He won’t back down. I don’t necessarily see him as someone that backs up and will let you come back into the tournament. You have to go catch him.”
Another of the many storylines coming into Masters Sunday was McIlroy’s chance to win the career grand slam and that will have to wait for another day as he dropped to a tie for fifth after a 2-over final round.
“Tough day, but I’ll be back,” McIlroy said. “And hopefully, I’ll be better.”
Tiger Woods, playing in his first Masters since 2015, fired a final round 69 to finish in a tie for 32nd place.
Woods will move into the top 100 for the first time in three years and said after the event that he was taking a few weeks off.
“Generally after this tournament, I put away the clubs for a while,” said Woods, who shot his best score of the week in his final round Sunday, a 3-under-par 69. “I usually take three to four weeks off, through my entire career, and usually the clubs are put in the closet, and I just kind of get away for a while.
“The run-up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling. I pushed myself pretty hard to get ready. And I peaked at it four times over the course of my career, and it’s tiring.”