Masters gets deserved but unpopular winner in Patrick Reed

New Masters champion Patrick Reed receives his Green Jacket from 2017 winner Sergio Garcia. Picture: Getty Images
New Masters champion Patrick Reed receives his Green Jacket from 2017 winner Sergio Garcia. Picture: Getty Images
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It wasn’t quite Stewart Cink denying Tom Watson a sixth Claret Jug at the age of 60 Turnberry.

There can be no denying, though, that Patrick Reed wasn’t the most popular winner of the 82nd Masters. Not even close.

Patrick Reed celebrates after winning the 82nd Masters. Picture: AP

Patrick Reed celebrates after winning the 82nd Masters. Picture: AP

Make no mistake, the 27-year-old was a deserved champion after holding off everything that was thrown at him in the final round at Augusta National.

We already knew from his Ryder Cup exploits at both Gleneagles and Hazeltine that Reed is tough as nails. This performance merely rubber-stamped that.

He’s the fourth straight first-time major winner at Augusta following Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia.

Reed, who was wearing an azalea pink top in the final round, broke par in every round with scores of 69-66-67-71 to finish on 15-under.

Runner-up Rickie Fowler, right, shakes hands with Jon Rahm after playing the last. Picture; AP

Runner-up Rickie Fowler, right, shakes hands with Jon Rahm after playing the last. Picture; AP

He’s the fifth player to claim a Green Jacket in his fifth start in this event, the last having been Jack Nicklaus in 1963.

Yet, despite all that, it still felt a bit like that Open Championship on the Ayrshire coast in 2009 due to the other storylines that could have been written on the last day.

Former Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler finished runner-up. He covered the last 11 holes in six-under, capping that thrust with a last-hole birdie, as he closed with a 67.

He’d certainly have proved a much more popular winner than Reed and the same certainly goes for Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth reacts after joinijng Greg Norman as the only players to have twice shot 64 at Augusta National. Picture: AP

Jordan Spieth reacts after joinijng Greg Norman as the only players to have twice shot 64 at Augusta National. Picture: AP

The 2015 winner stormed into contention by covering the first 17 holes in nine-under and was tied for the lead at one stage.

If he’d birdied the last, Spieth might have been the one having the Green Jacket slipped over his shoulders by 2017 winner Sergio Garcia in the Butler Cabin.

But his drive caught and tree and only went 177 yards. “You are kidding,” shouted Spieth. That led to a bogey and, despite a closing 64, he had to settle for third place on 13-under.

Then, of course, there was the Rory McIlroy storyline. He looked poised to swoop in a fourth attempt to become just the sixth player to complete golf’s career Grand Slam.

If he had been able to convert a five-foot eagle putt at the second, the 28-year-old might well have been in that same club as Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tiger Woods right now.

Missing that, though, seemed to dent McIlroy’s confidence. He was slipping out of contention by the time the final group reached Amen Corner and ended up having to settle for joint-fifth.

He ended up in that position alongside 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson, two-time winner Bubba Watson and Australian Cameron Smith.

“I knew my lead was going to shrink,” said Reed, who started the day three in front, “and the only way to get the job done was to make sure my putter was working.”

And it did. He holed a fast one down the hill at the third for a birdie. Another one dropped from the back of the green at the 12th.

From miles away at the 17th, he hit the hole and, under the most intense pressure, he held his nerve to two-putt the last.

He attended Augusta State and helped them win a brace of Division 1 national titles. “To win a major where I went to college is fantastic,” added Reed.

Another reason that Reed will not go down in the anals of history as a popular Masters champion is that he was accused of cheating and theft during his time in college.

He was dismissed from the University of Georgia on the back of those allegations, which he has denied.

He doesn’t speak to his mum, dad or sister. They live in Augusta but Reed deflected a question about them in his winner’s press conference.

Fowler is hoping this performance sparks a similar season to 2014, when he finished in the top five in all four majors.

“I left it all out there and made P Reed earn it,” said the 29-year-old Californian. “The birdie at the last was good to keep him honest and beat Jordan for second.

“Maybe this year I can record top fives again and it would be nice to throw one trophy in there.”

Spieth has now finished second-first-second-11th-third over the last five years in this event. On the strength of that, he was far from downbeat.

Referring to the fact that he got into contention despite starting nine behind Reed, he said: “I have proven today that you should never give up.

“It was a phenomenal day and my drive at the last wasnt that bad. It just caught the last branch.

“All in all, it was an extremely successful day. I’ve had a chance five years in a row to win here and that’s what I will be taking from today.”

McIlroy only hit eight greens in regulation as he closed with a 74. It wasn’t nearly as disappointing as the 80 he ran up with victory in his grasp in 2011 but it will hurt nonetheless.

“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” he said afterwards.

“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 tens 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 think 100 per cent I can come back and win here.”