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