Rory McIlroy believes he will win the Masters title he needs to complete the career grand slam despite letting his best chance to date slip away.
McIlroy began the final round three shots off the lead and closed to within a shot of eventual winner Patrick Reed after two holes, but faded badly
with a closing 74 at Augusta National.
And although it was not the collapse of 2011, when he enjoyed a four-shot lead
after 54 holes before crashing to a closing 80, the Northern Irishman could be
forgiven for wondering if his place in history will remain elusive.
“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” McIlroy said. “Of course it’s frustrating and it’s hard to take any positives from it right now, but at least I put myself in a position, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.
“For the last four years I’ve had top 10s but I haven’t been close enough to the lead. Today I got myself there, I didn’t quite do enough but I’ll still come back next year and try again.
“I think 100% I can come back and win here. I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top 10s, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times.
“The putter let me down a little bit, I just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference. I was trying to hit good shots and good putts and anytime I felt like I hit a good shot I got myself on the wrong side of the pin or gave myself a tricky one down the hill.
“Then when I did get some chances I didn’t take advantage of them. It was a tough day and hopefully I’ll be better next time.
“It was like every time I took a step forward I took a step back on the next hole. I had a chance to maybe put a bit more pressure on him than I did and I’d say three and five are the ones that I’d look back on and if I could have made pars there it could have been a different story.”
Fending off epic challenges from three top rivals in a dramatic Masters final round, Patrick Reed captured his first major title Sunday, grinding out a one-shot victory at Augusta National.
The 27-year-old US Ryder Cup firebrand showed the same grit he displays in match-play battles, dispatching Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy in an emotional battle that had spectators roaring.
“Today was probably the hardest mentally a round of golf can possibly be,” Reed said. “I knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
Reed, whose breakthrough came in his 17th major start, fired a 1-under par 71 to finish 72 holes on 15-under 273, one stroke ahead of Fowler with Spieth third on 275 and Spain’s Jon Rahm fourth on 276.
“Having to shoot under par in the final round to win my first major, it was awesome,” Reed said. “It was really satisfying.”
In addition to the iconic winner’s green jacket, Reed pocketed $1.98 million from an $11 million purse.
Reigning British Open champion Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion and twice a runner-up, matched the low final-round in Augusta National history with a 64, a closing bogey thwarting his bid for the biggest comeback to win in Masters history.
“I started nine back,” Spieth said. “I wanted to shoot a low round and see if something crazy happens.”
Fowler, still seeking his first major win, birdied six of the last 11 holes. He sank a 7-foot birdie putt on 18 to pull within one and keep Reed under pressure to the 72nd hole.
“We gave our all out there and made P-Reed earn it,” Fowler said. “I was happy to make that last putt.”
Needing a two-putt par from 25 feet at 18 to win, Reed gently tapped the first putt and saw it race four feet past the cup. He sank the comeback effort and pumped his fist in celebration.
“To have to two-putt the last hole to win my first major, it definitely felt right,” Reed said. “I was glad to end the drought.”
Reed’s last-pair partner McIlroy kept near on the front nine, chasing his dream of a Masters win to complete a career Grand Slam, but managed only one birdie in the last 14 holes.
“I just didn’t quite have it,” the Northern Ireland star said. “When I did have opportunities I didn’t take advantage of them.
“Tough day. But I’ll be back.”
Reed, who had never cracked 70 in 12 Masters rounds before this week, became the fourth straight first-time Masters winner and the ninth first-time winner in the past 10 majors.
Reed’s approach at the par-5 13th clung to a bank above Rae’s Creek, his title bid nestled with it, but he escaped with par to stay deadlocked with Spieth for the lead at 14-under.
Reed sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-4 14th to regain a one-stroke lead and parred to the clubhouse to win.
Spieth clipped a tree branch off the 18th tee and needed three to reach the green, where he missed an 8-foot par putt that would have seen him match the 18-hole course record.
Spieth was only the seventh player to shoot 64 in the last round, the first since Bo Van Pelt in 2012.
Patrick Reed delivered an overwhelming performance under difficult conditions to seize a two-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the Masters while Tiger Woods struggled but made the cut.
Reed, who shared second in last year’s PGA Championship, opened and closed the front nine with runs of three consecutive birdies then ran off another birdie treble on the back nine in shooting 6-under par 66 to stand on 9-under 135 after 36 holes at Augusta National.
“I just kind of kept myself out of trouble and let my putter do all the work,” Reed said. “I put it in the right spots so I could be aggressive with the putter.”
Reed’s only other 36-hole lead was at the 2015 US Open.
“I’ve been in this kind of position before,” Reed said. “It’s just another day at the golf course.”
World number 24 Reed is the only player since Ernie Els in 2015 to shoot birdie or better on all four of Augusta’s par-5 holes in each of the first two days.
Australian Marc Leishman was second on 137 after shooting 67 with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson third on 139.
Either Reed, ranked 24th, or 16th-rated Leishman would be the fourth consecutive first-time major winner to capture the green jacket.
Woods, a 14-time major champion playing his first Masters since 2015 following spinal fusion surgery, fired a 3-over 75 but reached the weekend on 4-over 148, delighting fans who stood 10-deep for a glimpse of the legend, whose last major win came at the 2008 US Open.
“It was about six months ago I didn’t know if I was going to play again,” Woods said. “I’m incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to play golf again. I missed it, and now I’m glad to be a part of it.”
At age 42, the four-time Masters winner revived “Tigermania” with two top-five PGA tuneup finishes after years of injury struggles, but has been humbled so far at formidable Augusta National.
“I didn’t hit my irons very good at all,” Woods said. “I hit so many beautiful putts. Nothing went in.”
The 7,435-yard layout tormented many as confusing winds and lightning-fast greens took a toll.
“The wind was up,” Stenson said. “When you have those kind of tricks playing out there it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Rory McIlroy, chasing a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory, and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth shared fourth on 140, McIlroy after a 71 while first-day leader Spieth shot 74.
“It’s so tricky,” McIlroy said. “The wind should be south-southwest but every hole you get on it’s coming from a different direction. The wind swirls in these big tall trees.”
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson and 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas were on 141. Thomas would overtake Johnson for number one with a victory on Sunday.
More winds and cooler conditions are expected Saturday along with rain.
“It looks like just grinding out par on the weekend out here,” Spieth said.
Reed, an American college champion at nearby Augusta State, never cracked 70 at Augusta until Thursday’s 69, but he made up for lost time even though all three birdie hat tricks were followed with bogeys.
“I got a lot more comfortable with the course throughout the years,” Reed said. “I’m keeping myself in areas where even if I miss greens I can get up and down.”
Reed’s highlights included a 26-foot birdie putt at one, a 13-foot birdie putt at seven, a 14-footer at nine and an 18-footer at 13.
Leishman also began with three birdies and unleashed a tremendous approach at 15 to set up a 6-foot eagle putt.
“Probably put 40 yards of hook on it,” Leishman said. “I felt that was a time where I had an opportunity. I gave it a go and it came off.”
Woods opened with a bogey and took double bogey at the fifth, his approach soaring over the green into dense brush. He plunked his tee shot at the par-3 12th into Rae’s Creek, his bogey dropping him to the 5-over cut line.
Woods became the last pro in the field to make a birdie or better at a par-5 hole by two-putting for birdies from 40 feet at 13 and 35 feet at 15. He made bogey at 16 but two closing pars kept him in for the weekend.
Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson made the cut on the number at 5-over 149.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia became only the 10th defending champion to miss the cut after a 78 following his opening 81, the worst-ever round for a defending champion.