AUGUSTA, Ga. – Patrick Reed never backed down, and now he’s a major champion.
Reed fired a 1-under 71 on Sunday at the Masters for a 15-under 273 total and a one-shot win. This victory marks his first major title.
And it was a battle for him to get it.
The 27-year-old had to hold off an early charge from Rory McIlroy and late ones from Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, but he earned his sixth PGA Tour win in the end.
Fowler goes 65-67, including a birdie at the 72nd hole, but comes up a shot short in solo second. Spieth fires a closing 64 to nearly storm from nine shots back. But his charge stalled when he bogeyed No. 18 to fall to 13 under. He finishes solo third.
But what a Sunday they all gave us.
Reed began the round with a three-shot cushion. But almost from the start, he was under attack. McIlroy’s opening drive was a disaster that went well right, but he somehow managed to escape with par.
A bogey at the first for Reed suddenly cut the lead to two when it looked it would grow. Then McIlroy offered an early strike of genius. He lasered his second shot from 196 yards at the par-5 second to 4 feet, and when Reed could only salvage par, McIlroy had that eagle putt to erase his entire three-shot deficit in two holes.
For the 28-year-old, it looked like this would turn out to be the day to win his fifth major title and complete the career grand slam. But the cracks then showed. McIlroy pushed that putt, settling for a disappointing birdie.
He was still within one but had missed a golden opportunity to share the lead. McIlroy never got that close again. He bogeyed the third, and Reed drained a 15-footer from off the green there for birdie to move back three ahead.
McIlroy would birdie the fourth to move back within two, but four bogeys and one birdie ensued and he tumbled to a 2-over 74 and a tie for fifth at 9-under 279.
But the challenge was just getting started for Reed. Spieth, Fowler and Jon Rahm all presented themselves as worthy chasers on the front nine.
Reed would bogey the sixth, but then birdie the seventh. When McIlroy bogeyed the eighth, Reed was leading by four at 14 under.
Then came the back nine on Sunday.
Reed had gone out in even-par 36, but Spieth put on a miracle charge. The 2015 Masters champion opened birdie-birdie and went out in 5-under 31.
He came to his nemesis par-3 12th and was able to find dry land, racing his arms in mock celebration. Oh, and then he drained a 25-footer for birdie from just over the green. The lightning bolt of a birdie moved him to solo second and within three at 11 under.
It only heated up on the par-5 13th when Spieth hit a brilliant shot from the pinestraw from 234 yards to 12 feet. The place was ready to erupt if Spieth could make that eagle putt and move within one. But the putt missed to the left, and he settled for birdie.
No matter. Reed would bogey the 11th to drop to 13 under, and Spieth was within one anyway.
Reed remained strong. He buried a 22-footer for birdie at the 12th to move back two ahead at 14 under.
Yet, Spieth kept coming.
He birdied 15 and then faced a 33-footer for birdie at the 16th. He drained it, moving to 9 under for the round. Suddenly the man who had started the round nine shots back was tied for the lead! Spieth was now threatening the Masters record round of 9-under 63 as well as the mark for the tournament’s greatest 54-hole comeback – set by Jackie Burke Jr., at eight shots, in 1956.
But again Reed stepped up.
He rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 14th to move one ahead again at 15 under. Spieth then hit a drive left that clipped trees at the last, was forced to lay up, wedged to 8 feet and missed the putt. It was a crushing closing bogey that saw him post a final-round 8-under 64.
A great round, but at 13 under, it would not be enough. Reed wasn’t in the clear, though.
Rahm presented a challenge and was 12 under playing the par-5 15th. That’s when his second shot found water. His chances drowned there as well with the ensuing bogey, and he would place solo fourth at 11 under.
Fowler, also searching for his first major title, was well behind until he birdied Nos. 12, 13 and 15 to move to 13 under. He had started the day five back and was two behind as he played the 18th. And he didn’t lay off.
A beautiful approach to 7 feet netted a closing birdie, a 5-under 67 and a 14-under 274. Now, he had to wait and see if Reed would fall back.
Reed nearly holed an 80-footer from off the green at the 17th, as his birdie effort hit the cup but stayed out and raced 5 feet by. He then calmly drilled the comebacker to stay 15 under and one ahead. He found the green at the 18th, raced his 25-footer a few feet by but cleaned up for his par and the win.
This felt like a long time coming for Reed.
He hadn’t contended in majors at all until last summer, but he always has thrived on the big stage.
He led underdog Augusta State (now Augusta University) to two national titles in his college days – going 6-0 in match play at the NCAA Championship to help complete the dream.
Reed began making a name for himself in the pros when he got through six Monday qualifiers for PGA Tour events in 2012. He would win on the PGA Tour the following year, beating Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the 2013 Wyndham Championship to do it.
He would win twice more in early 2014, and caused a stir when he declared himself a top-5 player in the world after capturing the WGC-Cadillac Championship. (He moved to No. 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking after that win, for the record.)
But that brashness seemed to suit him. Reed has been a star in the Ryder Cup, where his record for the U.S. sits at 6-1-2. He famously took down McIlroy in an incredible singles match at the 2016 edition.
Yet, he had no top 10s in majors nor a top-20 finish in four Masters starts. The first part changed when he tied for second at the PGA Championship.
The latter of course altered this week.
How far can Patrick Reed go? As Sunday proved once again, he’s built for the big stage.
So the possibilities are endless.