Date: April 09, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

Masters wrap: Gutsy Reed wins

Patrick Reed is Captain America and now he is the Masters champion as well.

Reed, the 27-year-old Texan who so divides the golfing world with his colourful past, his hubris and his mouthy approach, holed a one-metre par putt at the 18th hole to win the Masters by a shot from his compatriot and Ryder Cup teammate Rickie Fowler today.

Another American, Jordan Spieth, was a further shot back in third.

Reed, who studied at Augusta University and won two national titles there, said he knew the last putt well from experience.  It went in for 15-under overall. “To have to par the last hole to win my first major, it definitely felt right,’’ he said.

Reed had his moments on the final day having started with a three-shot lead. Momentarily he lost the outright lead when Spieth, who closed with a dynamic 64, made his incredible run and buried a huge birdie putt ahead on the 16th green.

But Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, ran out of momentum on the 18th tee, tugging his tee shot left and chiding himself: “Are you kidding me?” He would make a bogey when he could least afford it, narrowly missing the men’s major championship record of 63 when his putt to save par from two metres at the last started left and stayed left of the cup.

He posted 13-under and waited, and soon enough, he would be overhauled by Fowler, who hit a gorgeous iron shot to the 18th and made the putt for a 67 and posted 14-under. At this point, Reed was 15-under, a shot ahead but he needed to get through the last three holes to hold on. He did it, yet only just.

At the par-three 16th he hit a lovely iron shot and burned the hole for birdie, making a safe par. At the par-four 17th he was in the left fringe and with 25 metres to negotiate, and he hit the flag with a putt that was potentially sailing five or six metres past, or as he said himself "would probably still be rolling". He made the testing putt back knowing that he had enjoyed two big breaks for the day.

His previous stroke of fortune had come at the par-five 13th hole where his approach headed into the tributary of Rae’s Creek but somehow stayed dry, just holding up on the bank so that he would make par. “I’ve never seen a ball stay where that stayed,’’ said analyst Brandel Chamblee.

It was a miracle, but nearly all Masters winners can boast a break or two. “When you win, you get these kind of breaks,’’ said Spieth. “It’s happened to me every single time I’ve won.’’

Reed still had to go up the 18th in par to avoid a playoff with Fowler, and as he had done for most of the day, he got it done with a helicopter-style cut off the tee into the fairway, a short iron that hung up on the ledge above the hole, and two putts for the win. He shot a 71 for the day, which was enough.

Certainly plenty to handle his main challenger Rory McIlroy, who quickly moved within a shot early in the day but who ultimately did not fire much of a shot. McIlroy, who had talked up a big game on Saturday night after getting himself into the last group, shot a two-over par 74 to slide to a tie for fifth, once again missing his opportunity of completing the career grand slam.

Cameron Smith was the best Australian, making a ripping 66 including a back nine of 30 to tie for fifth, while Marc Leishman clung on, making a late run to finish ninth to put two Australians in the top 10.

Tiger Woods had a nice three-under today to finish tied-32nd in his first Masters since 2015.

Ultimately there were a handful of players who had a chance on the final day – Reed and McIlroy (early), Fowler who keeps turning up big in major championships without winning, the relentless Spieth who equalled the low final round in Masters history, and Jon Rahm of Spain who was close until he found the water with his second shot at the par-five 15th.

But Reed never looked more than shaky, which is understandable down the stretch in a Masters. He shaped his ball to the curves and cambers of Augusta National, sometimes putting away his trademark draw and favouring a windmill fade off the tees to stay in play.

He is right. He is a great player. A bulldog competitor, and now a major champion.

The crowd around 18 was subdued in its welcome of him, for everyone has heard the stories: his expulsion from college, the estrangement from his parents. But you don’t have to like him. Just respect his golf.