2016 Ryder Cup hero earned his green jacket
Augusta was ripe for a low score on Sunday. Early tee times from players out of contention yielded some surprising back nine play, including Tiger Woods going -4 on the back. Jordan Spieth, three-time major champion, was surging from well behind and putting himself in position to win. Rickie Fowler strted closer than Spieth and was inching his way further up the leaderboard.
Somebody was going to have to take The Masters. There would be no coasting to victory. Par was not necessarily a good score. Yet there was Patrick Reed, +1 for the day, trying to hold on to a lead while Jordan Spieth charged. Then, on the twelfth hole, Reed put a long birdie putt into the break and watched it go.
His response, the two words that he does best: Come on!
Reed didn’t have his best round. That was split between Friday and Saturday, the twin scores of 66 that put him in front entering the day. On the back nine, he held his lead tight, clawing for a final tournament score of -15 and the green jacket. His birdie on 12 was the highlight of the round, and the moment that it seemed that Patrick Reed had become a major champion. He had held off a phenomenal surge from Spieth and a worthy challenge from Rickie Fowler to win and be forever etched into Masters history.
There was no rematch with Rory McIlroy. McIlroy had faded well before the back nine, giving way to the surging Spieth and Fowler. Instead, Reed was left with the same fight Sergio Garcia had the year before, and the same fight so many first-time major champions have had: Getting over the hump from “great golfer” to “major champion.”
With the major championship, it seems a certainty we will see Patrick Reed play for the United States again in the 2018 Ryder Cup. The event is a favorite for many golfers, but no longer Reed’s career highlight with the Augusta win. Still, no matter how well he did the last time around, selection to the US team was no certainty this year for Reed. With so many great golfers these days, it takes a lot to simply earn entry into the event.
Reed becomes the tenth player to win his first major in the last thirteen tries as the PGA TOUR’s loaded field continues to bear fruit.
There could easily be more to come. Look at the PGA TOUR these days and you’ll find a number of players without a major championship to their name that seem destined to win at least one before too long. Rickie Fowler has won the Players Championship—the so-called fifth major—and played a strong week at Augusta. Jon Rahm let his frustration get the best of him at times Sunday, but at just 23 he has more than enough time to go with his immense talent.
There are so many great players under thirty that I could give a thousand words to those without majors and easily miss one or two golfers with more than a puncher’s chance of winning one of the big four.
This is a field that makes it hard to imagine a dominant superstar emerging. On any week, a dozen or so guys can put up very low scores and win a tournament in decisive fashion.
The Masters is not the end of much of anything, but rather the beginning of the most important part of the PGA TOUR schedule, at least until next year’s schedule change. From here, players will get ready for the Players Championship, then the US Open. Everything—the majors, the FedEx Cup, the Ryder Cup standings, and the race for Player of the Year—is just beginning in April.
That part of the season started out with a bang at Augusta, as the loaded field showed itself for what it was. The PGA TOUR’s newest era is taking shape, headlined by unpredictability and unpredecented depth.
As we look back on the Masters, then, it’s hard not to turn and look forward excitedly to what could possibly be next from a groundbreaking group of golfers looking to put their stamp on the game once and for all.