By Sam McPherson
American Patrick Reed did most of the hard work on Friday and Saturday at Augusta National, although his Sunday was anything but easy. He shot a one-under par 71 on the final day, and 15-under par for the tournament, to win The Masters by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and two strokes over Jordan Spieth. In winning his first major championship, after tying for second at last year’s PGA Championship, Reed also collected the $1.98 million winner’s prize.
Fowler and Spieth, teammates of Reed’s on the victorious 2016 United States Ryder Cup team, both shot the ball exceptionally well on Sunday, but came up just short at the end. Reed’s three-shot lead over Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy to start the fourth round proved to be insurmountable, even as Fowler shot a 67 and Spieth tied a final-round Masters record with a 64. McIlroy struggled all day, carding a 74 to finish in a tie for fifth place at 9-under.
This was Reed’s sixth career victory on the PGA Tour and obviously the most significant, although he did win the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2014 before posting a 3-0-1 record in the 2016 Ryder Cup. Perhaps it was just a matter of time, then, before the 27-year-old veteran from Texas captured his first major. However, Spieth did his best to make Reed earn this win, coming from ninth place after the third round to tie for the lead on the back nine Sunday.
But Spieth bogeyed the 72nd hole, and then Fowler birdied it to take the clubhouse lead at 14-under. Reed, who missed the cut at the Masters in 2017 and had never finished better than 22nd in this event, was calm and cool on the final nine, however, making birdies at the 12th and 14th holes before carding four straight pars to finish the tournament and claim the title.
Spieth led after the first round, shooting a 66 that included a bogey at the 18th hole. That gave the 2015 Masters champion a two-shot lead over fellow Americans Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar. Still, the biggest noise of the day came when defending champion Sergio Garcia carded a 13 on the 15th hole when he put five balls into the water. Meanwhile, sentimental and crowd favorite Tiger Woods shot 1-over par on Thursday in his return to Augusta, after missing the last two years with injury.
When Spieth tumbled on Friday, shooting 2-over, it was Reed who took control of the event with a brilliant 66, taking the midway lead at 9-under par. Australia’s Marc Leishman stood in second, two shots back, while Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was four shots behind the leader. Spieth and McIlroy were tied for fourth at 4-under par. Woods’ 75 on Friday enabled him to make the cut, but he was near the bottom of the leaderboard.
Reed’s 67 on Saturday gave him a three-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round, with McIlroy traileing him despite shooting 65 himself. Fowler also shot 65 to move into third place, while Spieth fell to a tie for ninth after a 1-under effort. Spain’s Jon Rahm carded a 65 in the third round himself to move up to fourth place, which he held on to Sunday after carding a final-round 69. Woods shot even par on Saturday to remain in 40th place after the third round. He would finish 32nd for the tournament at 1-over par, after posting 69 on Sunday.
Next On The Tee: The RBC Heritage
This is the 50th year on tour for The Heritage, which was first played in 1969, with Arnold Palmer claiming the inaugural event. Now held at the Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina, this event has a $6.7 million overall purse. The defending champion is American Wesley Bryan, who posted a one-stroke victory over Scotland’s Luke Donald in last year’s event. Both players are back this season, although Bryan missed the cut at Augusta while posting 74-78 in the first two rounds.
Other notable players in the field for this week include 2016 U.S. Open champion, Dustin Johnson, 2007 Masters and 2015 British Open winner, Zach Johnson, and Leishman, who finished ninth at Augusta, after carding 73-70 over the weekend. Among the former Heritage champions in the field are two-time winner Jim Furyk (2010, 2015) and five-time winner Davis Love III (1987, 1991, 1992, 1998, 2003). Many top players on tour take this week off to recover from the grueling grind of the Masters, but the 2018 field looks strong nonetheless.
The Harbour Town course, designed by Pete Dye in 1969, with the help of the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, is one of the most recognizable on tour. In 2012, a Golf Digest survey of pros on the PGA Tour ranked this course as the second-best loop after Augusta National. So it is fitting to schedule the two events on successive weekends. The iconic red and white-striped lighthouse on the course is quite famous as well.
The Harbour Town Golf Links course plays 7,099 yards long and is a par 71.
Favorites: Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith
Players to Watch: Branden Grace, Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.