Patrick Reed wins Masters for first major title
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The tepid applause that greeted Patrick Reed on the first tee made it clear he wasn’t the people’s choice.
All he cared about was being the Masters champion.
He turned back an early move by Rory McIlroy and a late charge by Rickie Fowler. Most daunting in the middle of the final round Sunday was a familiar name at Augusta National — Jordan Spieth — on the verge of the greatest comeback in Masters history.
Reed had the game and the grit to beat them all. And when he slipped on that green jacket, he had everyone’s respect.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “It’s just a way of 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 has proven that playing for his country. He did it Sunday for himself.
The final test was a 25-foot putt down the scary slope on the 18th green, and Reed pressed down both hands, begging it to stop as it rolled 3 feet by. From there, the 27-year-old Texan calmly rolled in the par putt for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory.
Known as “Captain America” for his play in the Ryder Cup, Reed added a far more important title: Masters champion.
The loudest cheers were for everyone else, and Reed picked up on that right away. The crowd was squarely behind McIlroy and his best chance yet at completing the career Grand Slam. Then it was Spieth, running off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to challenge the course record. The loudest cheer was for Fowler when he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to pull within one.
Reed never flinched through it all.
“I just went out there and just tried to play golf the best I could and tried to stay in the moment and not worry about everything else,” Reed said.
Reed, who finished at 15-under 273, won for the sixth time in his PGA Tour career.
Until Sunday, he was best known for the trophies he shared at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. He is ferocious in match play, especially the team variety, and his singles victory over McIlroy at Hazeltine in the 2016 Ryder Cup led to his nickname.
“He’s not scared. I think you guys have seen that previous from the Ryder Cups and the way he plays,” said Fowler, who closed with a 67. “He won’t back down. I don’t necessarily see him as someone that backs up and will let you come back into the tournament. You have to go catch him.”
Fowler did his best with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, and the 8-footer on the final hole. It still wasn’t enough. Fowler was runner-up for the third time in a major. He left the scoring cabin when Reed tapped in for par.
“Glad I at least made the last one, make him earn it,” Fowler said with a grin as he waited to greet the newest major champion.
“You had to do it didn’t you?” Reed told him as they exchanged a hug. “You had to birdie the last.”
Spieth put up the most unlikely fight and was on the verge of the greatest comeback in Masters history. He started nine shots behind going into the final round, and was inches away on two shots from a chance at another green jacket.
His tee shot on the 18th clipped the last branch in his way, dropping his ball some 267 yards from the green. His 8-foot par putt for a record-tying 63 narrowly missed on the right. He had to settle for a 64.
“I think I’ve proven to myself and to others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started the round nine shots back and I came out with the idea of just playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it and try to shoot a low round and finish the tournament strong and see what happens, if something crazy happens.”
McIlroy, meanwhile, will have to wait another year for a shot at the career Grand Slam.
Trailing by three shots to start the final round, he closed to within one shot after two holes. That was as close as he came. McIlroy’s putter betrayed him — he missed four putts inside 10 feet on the front nine — and he was never a factor on the back nine. He closed with a 74 and tied for fifth.
“Tough day, but I’ll be back,” McIlroy said. “And hopefully, I’ll be better.”
Reed is old-school among his generation, with a brash attitude and a willingness to speak his mind. He has never been terribly popular in this state, mainly because of allegations of bad behavior while playing for Georgia that led to an early departure from the Bulldogs. He transferred to Augusta State and led the outmanned Jaguars to a pair of NCAA titles. His parents live in Augusta, but were not at the tournament. They weren’t at his wedding in 2012, a relationship Reed chooses not to discuss.
“I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments,” Reed said.
He won a big one Sunday, and it was hard work, just the way he likes it.
Different about this victory for Reed was the fuchsia shirt he wore as part of a Nike script. Reed always wears black pants and a red shirt because that’s what Tiger Woods does, and Reed has long modeled his mental game after Woods. “Be stubborn,” he once said about learning by watching Woods.
Woods broke par for the first time all week with a 69. He tied for 32nd, 16 shots behind, in his first major since the 2015 PGA Championship.
Reed went to the back nine with a four-shot lead over four players, and they all had their chances. That included Jon Rahm, the 23-year-old from Spain, whose chances ended when he went after the flag on the par-5 15th and came up short in the water. He shot 69 and finished fourth.
Reed made a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 12, and his biggest birdie was a 9-iron to 8 feet on the 14th that broke the tie with Spieth. He made all pars from there. That was all he needed.
He became the fourth straight Masters champion to capture his first major.
Reed once claimed after winning a World Golf Championship at Doral that he was a top 5 player in the world, which subjected him to ridicule because it was only his third career title. His first major moves him to No. 11. It also comes with a green jacket, which is worth far more notoriety, not to mention respect.
For the first time in a long time, Tiger Woods looking forward to Masters week
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods was not on the grounds at Augusta National on Sunday, choosing to spend at least the early part of Easter at home before venturing north from Florida to a place he feared might never again be part of his competitive future.
Woods was here a little over a week ago to get a feel for the venue where he has four Masters Tournament victories, playing Augusta National for the first time since 2015, when he tied for 17th.
Each of the past two years, Woods, 42, came to the home of the year’s first major championship to take part in the Tuesday night champions dinner at the club, a bittersweet experience to say the least.
In both instances, the back issues that plagued him for a good part of the past four years prevented him from playing, and being on site made the pain even more acute.
“Brutal; it’s one of my favorite tournaments,” Woods said during a recent interview with ESPN.com. “To go and know that I can’t tee it up … it was harder than you might think. Way harder. When I got on the grounds, looking out there, knowing how to play the golf course, seeing the conditions, seeing the guys play … that was tough.”
Woods will be among the betting favorites when the Masters begins Thursday after a successful return to competition following 10 months away because of spinal fusion surgery on April 19, 2017.
In five tournaments on the PGA Tour, Woods has made four cuts, including a tie for second at the Valspar Championship and a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, ramping up the hype even more.
That’s a long way removed from the past two Masters, when Woods in each case had made an effort to prepare for and play in the tournament, only to send along his regrets just days before tournament week.
“Of course, I’m always going to try,” Woods said when asked how seriously he considered playing the past two years. “But I really had a hard time walking. I knew I couldn’t swing, couldn’t play. And that made it even harder being there. If I wasn’t there, it’s a lot easier. But when I step foot on the property, knowing all the good memories and all the things I’ve done in the past on the golf course, it’s harder.”
Woods said the mood was somber two years ago as he realized that Arnold Palmer was in poor health. Wood and Palmer each won the Masters four times, trailing only Jack Nicklaus, who donned the green jacket six times.
Helping Palmer get seated at the dinner that night, Woods said, was worse than his own troubles. Palmer was unable to participate in the honorary starter ceremony the next morning with Nicklaus and Gary Player; Palmer died less than six months later.
Woods’ outlook was dire a year ago for a different reason. He wondered if he’d ever play again. At the time, he was just a few weeks away from having the spinal fusion surgery that required he go six months without swinging a club.
Nobody, most of all Woods, knew how he would emerge. Even as he was about to start swinging a club again, Woods said on Sept. 27, “I don’t know what my future holds for me.”
“There were plenty of dark thoughts,” Woods said. “Because I really couldn’t do it. That’s what makes this year so exciting. I’ve got a chance to really do some good playing. That hasn’t been the case for years.”
Woods visited Augusta National on March 22- 23, playing practice rounds each day, according to a post on his website. He had said following the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he would spend considerable time charting the greens and learning the course again.
As has been his custom, Woods used a local caddie named Jay Thacker — Augusta National requires one of its caddies to be employed during non-tournament weeks — and took his time making his way around the course.
His pre-tournament preparation has varied over the years. Woods said he has never played Augusta National — as would be his privilege as a past champion — other than in the weeks leading up to the tournament to get a feel for any changes made.
For several years, Woods made a habit of playing a Sunday practice round at Augusta National, when no spectators are around and just a handful of tournament participants and members are on the course.
But he didn’t do so the last time he played (in 2015), showing up on Monday — having taken the previous nine weeks off to address short-game issues — and then, surprisingly, tying for 17th. And he elected to skip Sunday this year, too.
No matter. Few know the golf course as well as Woods, who last won here in 2005 but has seven top-six finishes in his past nine starts. He also arrives healthy for the first time since 2013, when he tied for fourth.
That is why there is so much optimism, especially from Woods.
“Quite a shift,” Woods said on his website. “Six months ago, the odds were I wasn’t even going to play. I’ve been better with each week I’ve competed. A little more crisp. I’m starting to put the pieces together.”