The story of El Alamo came to mind during Sundays at Augusta as Rory Mcilroy tried every shot in his bag in the final round to secure victory. But no matter how he tried or how many strikes he made in anger his opponent fired right back. As the day progressed Mcilroy became surrounded by more adversaries: Jordan Spieth, John Rahm and Rickie Fowler that added to a sense of siege, against the four-time major winner started to run out of bullets. Arriving to eighteenth green the Holywood man cut a disconsolate figure with his second appearance in the final Sunday group foiled over the back nine. Although this time the sheer tenacity of his playing partner Patrick Reed was impressive. Albeit his round was also scrappy at times.
However, every time Reed stumbled or looked on the edge he came back with some magnificent strokes. Having studied in Georgia he had some local support even though Reed has a chequered following in the game due some outspoken comments over the years. In the end the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine influenced both men in the background one feels. Yet again it was the European golfer who wilted under the American’s pressure and struggling end to even stay in the fight. But up against the steely Reed the outcome was no real surprise. Like fellow Texan, Jordan Spieth, Reed is ruthless, focused and the ultimate competitor. Fighting back from the first bogey of the day on the opening hole to the last par putt om the eighteenth.
Unlikely to win any popularity contests, Patrick Reed, delivers on the course and his cut throat competitiveness takes no prisoners. A steely determination obvious since he was young kid and one that helped him survive through some turbulent college years also. But he seems to love pressured and now closes in on statements made in 2015 about being one of the top five gofers in the world. Remarks that ruffled his playing partner at the time a few years, as Mcilroy has held the world number one, along four major titles. Yet has been unable to master his demons at Augusta for the second time. He then sees Reed arrive and with the first chance he gets he squeezes the life out of all comers and leaves Georgia the proud owner of a green jacket. Like many of the recent winners wins without holding any major title. It seems Augusta has little respect for CV’s
Indeed, that weight of experience was of no hep to Mcilroy and when his putting stroke abandoned him on Sunday he saw a number of birdie chances slide by and moved down the leader board and out of reach of a green jacket this year. As he went south on the scoreboard the Americans went North with Spieth and Fowler starting charges. While the two gunslingers battled it out the real action was further up the field with Jordan Spieth starting his own fireworks by making the turn in 31 – and going on to card a 64. Only his birdie putt slid by the final he would been 14 under and pushing for a possible play off if Reed faltered. Not a bad effort considering where he started earlier that day. With Californian Rickie Fowler then engaging in the fight and going six under on the last 11 holes, finally coming of age at a Major it would seem. Indeed, when the pressure was at its most Fowler showed a calmness of thought that promises a major win soon.
On Saturday night though he said of his five-shot deficit over 18 holes. “I mean, I’m a ways back,” he remarked with an air of concession. But on Sunday he showed metal on the run for home: “I didn’t have the front nine that I quite needed,” Fowler said Sunday night, “I didn’t look at the scoreboards a whole lot today, but I wanted to kind of check in and see where things were at around the turn,” Fowler said. “I saw Jordan was off and running today. That was kind of a kick in the butt. I knew I needed a good back nine, but to see one of your buddies playing well … I knew what I needed to do.”
On Sunday, Spieth — the 2015 Masters champion — had one of the best final rounds in the 82-year history of golf’s most prestigious event. His 8-under 64 not only matched a personal best at Augusta National, it was only the seventh time in history someone shot a final-round 64 at The Masters. Yet it wasn’t enough. “The first few holes were stress-free,” Spieth said after his round. “I know where these Sunday pins are, and fortunately played the golf course exactly how it needed to be played.
“I’ve proven to myself and others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started nine shots back and I came out with the idea of playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it.”
“I didn’t look at one board,” Spieth concluded “The only time I knew where I stood was after I finished on 18. I knew the putt was important. Every shot was very important coming down the stretch, because I knew I needed to get deeper and deeper, because with that many guys ahead, somebody’s going low, But I didn’t know exactly what it was, so obviously pretty gutted at the finish. I hit a tee shot that wasn’t that, it just caught the last little branch of that tree. So obviously I want to go back to that tee shot right now, but it was a phenomenal day.”
Spieth career finishes at Augusta are 2014: T2; 2015: Champion; 2016: T2; 2017: T11 and
2018: Third. And he is only 24 years of age.
For Rory in contrast The Masters may be one of those tournaments where he may never dominate. Not unlike Ivan Lendl in tennis, who won every major except Wimbledon and was losing finalist on two occasions and unable to master the centre court on the final Sunday in June. Or Seve Ballesteros who never captured a US Open title with his best finish as third in 1987. Then Colin Montgomerie never won a major but was European Number 1 for many seasons. And so, it might be for Rory and the more he tries to win the Masters the further it gets for him. Sunday had that feel as he was a bit erratic even from the starting hole on the green, and finally signing for a two-over par 74. A card which dropped him to a share of fifth place on nine under overall. A total six strokes adrift of the champion Reed with whom had at in his sights and was just one stroke adrift.
“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” said McIlroy, who littered his card with five bogeys against three birdies. “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’m 100 per cent sure 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. But I’ll sit down and reflect over the next few days and see what I could have done better.
“Whether it be mindset or whatever, I just didn’t quite have it today. I played some great golf, but I just didn’t continue that into today,” added McIlroy, who admitted his putter had “let me down” throughout the final round.
“I just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference,” he said. “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, but it was a tough day and hopefully I’ll be better next time.”
Sunday proved Reed is ferocious in match play, and that singles victory over McIlroy at Hazeltine in 2016 was no fluke and led to the nickname of Captain America. The moniker was apt yet again at Augusta. Albeit all of American doesn’t necessarily love him. Regardless, he is deservedly the 2018 Masters Champion.
A title that still eludes McIlroy after ten visits to Georgia.