Never one to back down from a fight, Patrick Reed sure had one on his hands Sunday in the final round of the 82nd Masters.
The hero of the 2016 Ryder Cup took some mighty blows from Augusta National Golf Club but never went down – he is Captain America, after all – and now has a green jacket to drape over his red, white and blue cape.
Armed with a three-shot lead after 54 holes, Reed, the fiery, confrontational raging bull, channeled his emotions, held his nerve and called upon his considerable golf skills to withstand a host of the game’s best players on a tense, wild Masters Sunday that had the staff handling the famous white scoreboards working overtime.
“To win your first major is never going to be easy,” said Reed, who had never broken 70 in his previous four starts in the Masters. “It definitely wasn’t easy today. I knew it was going to be a dogfight.
“It’s just 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?”
He did just that with a final-round 1-under-par 71, holding off challenges from Rickie Fowler, Ryder Cup rival Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup partner Jordan Spieth to win his first major title in 17 attempts. With a huge birdie from eight feet on the 14th and gut-check pars on 13, 15, 17 and 18 – the last a four-foot par save to conclude matters – Reed finished with rounds of 69-66-67-71 to end at 15-under 273.
“I stuck to my game plan all week,” Reed said. “Even today, I didn’t stray from it at all. It’s something that I needed to learn, especially at a place like this, how important it is to stick to what I believe.”
Reed wound up one clear of Fowler, who shot 65-67 on the weekend but came up short in his bid to win his first major, while Spieth, who delivered the biggest charge with a 64 that included a last-hole bogey, wound up two back.
“Patrick, he’s not scared,” said Fowler, who since 2013 has eight top-10s in majors, the most without a victory. “He’s not scared on the golf course. He’ll play aggressive. He’ll play his game. He won’t back down.
“Gave it our all, left it all out there. Made P. Reed earn it.”
Jon Rahm shot 69 to finish four back. McIlroy, trying to complete the career Grand Slam, added to his star-crossed Masters history with a final-round 74 and tied for fifth.
Reed got off to a shaky start with an opening bogey but settled down when he canned a 15-footer for birdie on the third hole – “I needed that,” he said – and added another red number at the seventh when he stuffed his second shot from 133 yards to a foot for another birdie.
By this time, the battle was joined by a few players, including Spieth, who kept pecking away at his deficit with one birdie after another. The 2015 Masters champ made seven birdies in his first 13 holes and finally caught Reed with the last of his nine on the 16th hole.
“I’m kind of glad he ran out of holes,” Reed said.
Reed, however, never lost at least a share of the lead and made birdie on the 12th from 22 feet – his first birdie on the devilish par-3 hole.
Then fortune shined on him when his approach to the par-5 13th from 186 yards stayed on the bank fronting the green instead of rolling into Rae’s Creek and Reed made par.
He regained the lead with a birdie on the 14th from eight feet and then two-putted from 75 feet on the 17th for par and two-putted from 25 feet on the 18th to win the green jacket, his sixth PGA Tour title and $1.98 million.
“Everybody really likes battling Patrick, because he loves it so much and eats it up,” said Spieth, who has a win, two seconds and a third in five Masters starts.
“My only wish or regret from the week was that I was playing with him at some point on the weekend. But he’s a member of the Masters club now, he’ll have a green jacket forever. His name is etched in history.”