A dramatic final round at the 82nd Masters that will shape the careers of its main protagonists for years to come ended in a worthy success for American Patrick Reed on Sunday night.
The 27-year-old Texan thought he had to defeat his Ryder Cup opponent Rory McIlroy to win the green jacket but in the end it turned out to be his team-mate Rickie Fowler and his playing partner from those matches, Jordan Spieth.
It was Spieth who made the most startling move, coming from nowhere with a fabulous final round of 64, but a bogey at the 18th was a costly mistake. Shortly afterwards, Fowler made a birdie on the same hole to set a stringent 14-under-par target.
Patrick Reed won his first ever major title as he claimed the Masters green jacket at Augusta National on Sunday evening
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who was crowned Masters champion for the first time last year, presented Reed with his green jacket
Reed smiled for the cameras as he held aloft his Masters trophy at the end of a terrific week of action at Augusta National
The 2018 champion, dressed in a bright pink shirt, raised his cap in celebration after sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole
That left Reed needing to par the final two holes to win in the town where he went to college and where he firmly divides opinion.
Reed left college with all sorts of cheating allegations against his name and it was noticeable that Fowler, Spieth and McIlroy all received louder ovations.
At the 17th Reed left himself a knee-knocking six-foot putt for par and dispatched that one before facing the same fate at the 18th after his birdie effort slipped on by. He holed it to get the job done and claim his first major championship.
This was a devastating day for McIlroy, one in which he learned in no uncertain terms just why only five players have ever won the career Grand Slam.
There is no getting away from the fact his failure to deliver was down to a complete loss of nerve but then he’s in good company. Arnold Palmer couldn’t get it done, and neither could Lee Trevino or Tom Watson, to name but three.
McIlroy thought it disappointing when he shot a final round of 80 in 2011 but this will surely hurt more. He will have other chances, of course, but the worry must be the scar tissue is building with every year that passes.
He might never have a better opportunity than this time, given how well he was playing going into the final round. He finished with a 74 for a tie for fifth.
The day began badly for McIlroy on the first tee, where he hit a drive that almost flew at right angles to the fairway. He got lucky on that occasion, just as he had on a number of occasions during Saturday’s third round, but the obvious relief proved temporary.
Only once all day did he look comfortable, when he hit two towering shots to six feet at the par-five second. If he had holed that eagle putt he would have wiped out the three shots that had separated him from Reed overnight there and then.
Wife Justine — whose pink gillet matched her husband’s shirt — hugs her husband and joins in the celebrations at Augusta
Reed smiled and leaned into his wife as she appeared to whisper a message into the champion’s left ear following his victory
Rory McIlroy patted Reed on his shoulder as the Brit added his congratulations, having failed to chase down his rival
Reed started the final round on 14 under, three shots ahead of McIlroy and the American hit a level-par front nine
But he missed and the next three-and-a-half hours became an excruciating battle with his own emotions and demons.
The best driver in the game found he could barely hit a fairway and a putting stroke that had looked so reliable for three rounds deserted him completely.
It was hard not to feel for Fowler as well. What on earth does he have to do to finally win a major? He followed a wonderful 65 with a gutsy 67, only to discover he was still one shot shy of glory.
He has now finished runner-up in all four majors — the bridesmaid’s Slam, if you’re cruel.
Spieth didn’t think he had a prayer of winning with a round to play. ‘I’m looking forward to my first stress-free final round at Augusta National,’ said the Texan, before setting out.
In four previous Masters appearances, Spieth had been in either the final group or the penultimate one, in compiling his marvellous record that included one victory and two second-place finishes.
McIlroy’s face was a picture of concentration as the 28-year-old sunk a putt for par on the first green to kick off his final round
Clubhouse leader Reed, watched keenly by the scoreboard operators, still led McIlroy by three after three holes on Sunday
McIlroy picked up birdies on second and fourth holes as he sought to win his first Masters title and complete the Grand Slam
But McIlroy’s hopes were dashed as he made bogeys on the third, fifth, eighth and 11th holes and fell out of contention
This time he was nine strokes behind and no one had ever made up such a deficit to claim the jacket. With 22 of the last 27 winners coming from the final group, it was only natural that all the attention was focused on Reed and McIlroy in the final pairing.
But, with both of them clearly affected by nerves early on, Spieth detected an unlikely opening. So good was he over the first 12 holes the one thing his final round didn’t become was stress-free.
The 24-year-old reached the turn in 32 shots to cut the deficit from nine shots to four going into the fabled back nine. Two years ago, he was four up with nine to play but lost out to Danny Willett. He knew better than anyone what was possible.
There was a lovely moment at the 12th, the hole that cost him in 2016. This time he found the putting surface and threw his arms into the air. He holed the putt for a two. Just the four shots better, then. At the 13th, Spieth played one of the great shots of this Masters. From the pine needles on the dogleg at this par five, he hit a tremendous blow to 12 feet. The only surprise was that he missed the eagle attempt.
Jordan Spieth, who started the day on five under, picked up nine shots on the first 17 holes as he shot a superb 64 on Sunday
Spieth was on course to equal the nine-under course record of 63 until he made a bogey on the 18th and had to settle for third
After finishing his final round, 24-year-old former world No 1 Spieth and caddie Michael Greller embraced on the 18th green
But even bigger celebrations were had by Charley Hoffman, who hit a hole in one on the par-three 16th during his round of 67
AMEN TO PAUL CASEY AND A SUPER 65
Paul Casey equalled a historic record in Sunday’s final round, joining a select bunch of five golfers who have passed Amen Corner with a cumulative low score of eight. The others who achieved the feat were Americans Raymond Floyd (1966), Don Pooley (1986), Gene Sauers (1993) and Bob Estes (2002), and the Italian Costantino Rocca in 1997.
Britain’s Casey, 40, could also have equalled the course record of 63 set by Nick Price in 1986 and matched by Greg Norman 10 years later — neither of which was in the final round. But Casey’s bogey-bogey finish, dropping shots at both the 17th and 18th holes, saw him sign for a 65.
Casey, who won on the US PGA tour for the first time in nine years in the Valspar Championship last month, said: ‘I’m going to remember that for a long time, but I’m obviously disappointed with the finish. I got out of position horribly at 17 and 18, which was reminiscent how I played this week. But to shoot 65 would have been hard to turn down.’
Spieth birdied the 15th and 16th but the tee shot at the 18th was a problem for him on day one and again here, as his drive caught a tree limb and fell to earth.
He ended up needing a 10-foot putt to set a realistic target and tie the course record set by Greg Norman in 1986 and equalled by Nick Price 10 years later. But it slipped by and, as he looked up at the giant leaderboard, he knew his chance had all but gone.
Jon Rahm was another with a chance to win but the 15th hole had been cruel to one Spaniard as defending champion Sergio Garcia ran up a 13 there on Thursday and now it dealt a harsh blow to another, as the 23-year-old found the water with his approach. That was the end for him.
If ever a man could be disappointed with a 65 it was Paul Casey, who stood on the 16th tee at nine under for his round having tied the all-time record in playing the trio of holes comprising Amen Corner in just eight shots.
He chipped in at the 11th, birdied the 12th and eagled the 13th. It was as if he woke up on the 17th tee, alas, as he finished bogey, bogey for a share of 15th place.
Reed clenches his right first and watches a birdie putt fall into the 14th hole as the Texan closed in on his historic victory
Rickie Fowler, pictured in action in front of the azaleas by the 13th green, launched a late bid for the title but finished second
Reed threw his club in a mini fit of frustration after missing a birdie putt on the 17th green but he held his nerve at the last
Branden Grace of South Africa plays his tee shot at the famous 12th hole on another Sunday to remember at the Masters