Spi­eth puts Reed’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence un­der pres­sure as McIl­roy’s grand slam bid fades

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - PHIL CASEY AT AUGUSTA ■ Email: yp.sport@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @YPS­port

JOR­DAN SPI­ETH last night pro­duced a scin­til­lat­ing round of golf to give overnight leader Pa­trick Reed a real scare as Rory McIl­roy’s bid for the ca­reer grand slam fal­tered.

McIl­roy had be­gun the day three shots off the lead af­ter a 65 on Satur­day moved him into po­si­tion to fi­nally claim the only ma­jor still to elude him.

But Amer­i­can Reed, look­ing for his first ma­jor win, ap­peared un­bowed by McIl­roy’s pres­ence as Spi­eth emerged as his big­gest chal­lenger.

Spi­eth, the 2015 cham­pion, raced to the turn in 31 strokes, and then birdied the 12th – his neme­sis in 2016 when Sh­effield’s Danny Wil­lett took ad­van­tage – to close to within three of his Ry­der Cup part­ner.

Spi­eth, who led af­ter an open­ing 66 but strug­gled to a 74 on Fri­day, had started the fi­nal round nine shots off the lead.

The big­gest come­back af­ter 54 holes in Masters his­tory is eight shots by Jackie Burke in 1956, but Spi­eth looked like a man on a mis­sion and pro­duced a stun­ning ap­proach to the 13th from the pine straw.

By the time he reached the 17th tee he was level with Reed on 14 un­der af­ter birdies on 15 and 16, the lat­ter a 25-footer across the green.

It had been a dra­matic start by the fi­nal pair­ing as Reed’s drive fin­ished close to a tree to the left of the fair­way and McIl­roy hit a wild drive to the right.

McIl­roy was lucky to re­main in bounds and even more for­tu­nate to have a clean shot, the 28-yearold find­ing a green­side bunker with his ap­proach and sav­ing par.

Reed ap­peared to hit the tree on his back­swing but also ended up in the same bunker as McIl­roy, only to thin his third shot to the back of the green.

The re­sult­ing bo­gey saw his lead cut to two shots.

McIl­roy looked like get­ting on level terms af­ter a spec­tac­u­lar ap­proach to the par-five sec­ond, but was un­able to con­vert the ea­gle putt from four feet.

But with Reed un­able to make birdie af­ter find­ing a bunker with his sec­ond shot, the gap was down to a sin­gle shot, with Jon Rahm two shots fur­ther back af­ter birdies on the sec­ond and third.

But McIl­roy would never get as close again.

The mo­men­tum quickly swung back in Reed’s di­rec­tion on the third as McIl­roy made bo­gey af­ter his ap­proach span off the front of the green and Reed birdied from 15 feet.

That re­stored Reed’s three­shot overnight lead, but it was in­stantly back down to two when McIl­roy birdied the par-three fourth from three feet.

Fur­ther down the leader­board, Eng­land’s Paul Casey had the course record and ma­jor his­tory in his sights af­ter card­ing seven birdies and an ea­gle in his first 15 holes.

The course record at Augusta Na­tional is 63 and Bran­den Grace’s 62 at Royal Birk­dale is the low­est score in men’s ma­jor cham­pi­onship his­tory.

But Casey bo­geyed the 17th af­ter find­ing sand with his ap­proach and also three-putted the 18th to com­plete a 65.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Casey said. “Birdie, birdie, ea­gle on Amen Cor­ner, I’m go­ing to re­mem­ber that for a long time.

“I’m ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed (with the fin­ish).

“I got out of po­si­tion hor­ri­bly on 17 and 18 which was kind of rem­i­nis­cent of how I played this week. Haven’t been very good un­til that streak today.”

The drama con­tin­ued at the head of af­fairs as McIl­roy and Reed traded bo­geys on the fifth and sixth be­fore Reed pro­duced a stun­ning ap­proach to the sev­enth to set up a tap-in birdie.

McIl­roy was then forced to chip out side­ways on the eighth af­ter a drive into the trees and missed from short range to save his par.

That briefly left Reed with a four-shot lead be­fore Spi­eth’s dra­matic charge up the leader­board.

PIC­TURES: AP/DAVID GOLD­MAN AND MATT SLOCUM

IN THE HUNT: Pa­trick Reed, left, had a fight on his hands to claim a first ma­jor ti­tle at Augusta last night as the chal­lenge of Rory McIl­roy, back­ground, faded. In­set, Jor­dan Spi­eth bumps fists with his cad­die as he surged up the leader­board.

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