themasters

Reed Ruins Rory’s Masters Party

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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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.

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“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.


Patrick’s Day at Augusta

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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Even the most ardent golf followers might struggle picking out in two current leaders of The Masters on Friday night, as they are not amongst the expected names. With both arriving at Augusta with no serious hint of form that could even facilitate two rounds of error free golf – for the most part—that would put them in the leading pairing. But here we are with American Patrick Reed leading on -7 and Australian Marc Leishman trailing by one stroke. With a few shots of daylight before some of the know guns appear, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson. Making for an interesting leader board on Saturday when a number of things will change, including the weather as rain is forecast.

The surge for both reed and Leishman was also threatening Tiger Woods survival as he needed to be in the top 50. Or within 10 strokes of the leader when the final group signed their cards on Friday night. As of midday 69 golfers were in line to qualify for the event’s final two rounds — five more than the 64 who made the cut in 1966 to set the course record. But ominously the top ten regulars like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler all remained within striking distance. However, it was Reed who shrank the field with his round reducing Saturday’s starters to 50 competitors. Which at one point looked like bad news for Woods after the 12th where he was +5. But then birdies on the 13th and 15th put him back on the safe side of the cut line.

In four appearances, Reed has twice missed the cut and tied for 22nd and 49th. But the American Ryder Cup players remains unfaczed. “The more you play someplace, especially Augusta National, the more you pick up the little subtleties,” Reed said Friday, “I’m in a better frame of mind with my golf game and mentally.” Although rain is forecast on Saturday afternoon the third round might throw up uncomfortable conditions. “I am from Texas,” he added, “I would say I like it when it gets challenging.”

Famously in 2014 after his third PGA Tour title – also becoming the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event – he shared some views that created a furore at the time among some of the golfing cognoscenti. “I’ve worked so hard, I’ve won a lot in my junior career, did great things in (my) amateur career, was 6-0 in match play in NCAAs, won NCAAs two years in a row, got third individually one year, and now I have three wins out here on the PGA Tour.

“I just don’t see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and, you know, the other legends of the game. It’s just one of those things, I believe in myself and – especially with how hard I’ve worked – I’m one of the top five players in the world,”
He continued, “To come out in a field like this and to hold on wire to wire like that, I feel like I’ve proven myself.”

This week if he wins at Augusta he might just have proved his point.

Aa Jordan Spieth discombobulated on Friday he then recovered to hold a share of fourth the along with McIlroy and paired with fellow American on Saturday, Justin Thomas. After starting with a double bogey, he looked rather different to the fine-tuned machine that graced the course on Thursday. But refusing to be rattled by being three-over par after two holes then added a bogey on the par-5 second hole but went to finish 4-under overall. “I’ve taken a lot of punches on this golf course,” Spieth said. “So, to come back from 3-over through two holes and only shoot 2-over with a limited number of looks, it’s not so bad. I’m still in this golf tournament.” Clearly Friday’s windy conditions and quick greens challenged the field of 87 golfer.

“I just had two really bad tee shots to start the day on the first two holes,” Spieth continued. “Then the course was very difficult today.” By the third hole Spieth was talking to himself again to ensure he steadied his round with four straight pars. The Texan showing remarkable patience at age 24. “Par out here is a really good score,” Spieth said. “So, what’s the first couple of holes on a Friday start mean? It doesn’t really mean much to me. It means let’s figure out what was wrong and fix it. But it’s not going to affect the outcome of this tournament off those two holes. I’m still in great position.”

Rory McIlroy remains in the hunt after a very mixed day. But this year at Augusta he has brought a steely edge that has been absent on recent visits. On a day when par seemed a good score, McIlroy carded 1-under 71. “I’ve always been comfortable around the lead,” McIlroy said in what seemed like a bit of a message to the rest of the field. “It’s a place that I’m thankfully quite familiar with and know how to deal with.”

This year McIlroy has been very serious about his preparations traveling up from Florida to play 54 holes with members last week and 36 a few weeks before that. Also coming off that win in Bay Hill at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“Sometimes pars might be a little bit boring and you might feel as if you want to get a little bit more out of your round,” McIlroy said. “But as you look up the leader board and you’re still there around the lead, that’s taken awhile for me to adjust to.”

Still at Augusta National birdies are available on the back nine so took them at 13 and 14 before making a string of pars to finish his round. “I said to myself on the 13th tee, “Let’s make four in the next six,” sort of do what Jordan did yesterday,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t quite, birdied the 13th and 14th, gave myself a few more chances coming in and didn’t quite convert.”

When Marc Leishman was asked about how he managed to look so relaxed in that high-profile grouping, which also included Tommy Fleetwood. “Obviously, I’ve been through a lot off the course,” Leishman said. “I think that helps me on the course.” Leishman topped the leader board and the memory of being paired in the final round with Adam Scott some years ago, Leishman kerned the importance of seizing opportunities, and taking chances when the reward is worth it. On Friday at the 15th hole he did that and made eagle.