Rory McIlroy out to ‘spoil the party’ for Patrick Reed in Sunday showdown at Masters

Rory McIlroy celebrates after closing with a birdie in a bogey-free 65 in the third round of the 82nd Masters. Picture: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy celebrates after closing with a birdie in a bogey-free 65 in the third round of the 82nd Masters. Picture: Getty Images
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Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy fought out an epic singles battle in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where the American prevailed on the last green.

McIlroy has his chance for revenge when the pair go head-to-head in the last group in the final round of the 82nd Masters at Augusta National.

Rory McIlroy surveys the scene from the azaleas after finding them at the 13th hole afer his hand slipped off the grip of his club in heavy rain. Picture: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy surveys the scene from the azaleas after finding them at the 13th hole afer his hand slipped off the grip of his club in heavy rain. Picture: Getty Images

Helped by two eagles on the back nine on an overcast and occasionally wet Georgia day, Reed leads by three shots as he chases a first major title.

The 27-year-old Texan is on course to become the first player to card four rounds in the 60s to claim a Green Jacket, having backed up opening efforts of 69 and 66 with a 67 to get to 14-under.

He’s been on fire over the last two days, making 14 birdies in addition to those two eagles, one of which was a chip in at the 15th.

“It is going to be exciting,” said Reed of his Sunday showdown with McIlroy. “Every time we play together we have a lot of fun and hopefully we can produce some fireworks.

Leader Patrick Reed in an unsual finishing position as he tries to shape his drive at the 18th hole at Augusta National. Picture: Getty Images

Leader Patrick Reed in an unsual finishing position as he tries to shape his drive at the 18th hole at Augusta National. Picture: Getty Images

“I feel comfortable with everything right now and my nerves are fine. The biggest thing is just going out and executing the shots.”

McIlroy is leading the chase as he bids to land the win he needs to become just the sixth player to complete golf’s career Grand Slam.

The 28-year-old made his charge on “moving day” with a front-nine thrust, following three birdies in four holes from the third with a chip in for an eagle at the eighth.

In the worst of the afternoon rain, McIlroy’s hand slipped on his grip as he played his approach at the 13th and ended up in the azaleas.

He managed to save par after hacking out before holing a good birdie putt at the 15th then rolling in an even better one at the last in a bogey-free 65.

His celebration as that last putt dropped showed exactly what it meant to him and now he’s just 18 holes away from joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as one of the game’s legends.

The Ulsterman had one arm in a Green Jacket in 2011 only to capitulate on the back nine as he closed with an 80. This is his chance for redemption.

“A bogey-free 65 and finishing the way I did,” said McIlroy afterwards. “I got on a nice little run on the front nine before the birdies dried up but then birdied two of the last four and made a nice up and down on 17 as well.

“Patrick is having a great tournament, but I am a lot closer to him than I was at the start of the day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Referring to what happened in 2011, he added: “I learned a lot from that day and hopefully I can put those lessons into practice tomorrow.

“I’m really excited about being in the final group here for the first time since 2011 and want to show everyone and show Patrick Reed.

“All the pressure is on him. He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him that are pretty big‑time players. He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight.

“He went to Augusta State and has a lot of support out here, but I want to come in and spoil the party.”

Also in with a chance of doing that are 2015 Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler and Spaniard Jon Rahm, who sit five shots and six shots respectively behind Reed.

Fowler, who was fifth here in 2014, when he was also in the mix in the other three majors, matched McIlroy’s 65 to get into contention.

“All in all, it was a great moving day and I’ve put myself in a spot where I have a chance,” said the 29-year-old Californian after signing for his first bogey-free round here.

Rahm, who is bidding to succeed compatriot Sergio Garcia as champion, eagled the eighth before picking up two birdies in the last three holes as he, too, carded a 65.

Two-time winner Bubba Watson is on six-under, as are European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood and Australian Marc Leishman, while 2015 winner Jordan Spieth is a shot further back along with last year’s US PGA champion Justin Thomas.

Fleetwood’s 66 contained seven birdies, including five in a row from the 12th, with the only blemish a three-putt bogey from long range on the 18th.

“It’s a bit weird walking off disappointed with a 66,” said the Englishman. “I played great on the front nine without holing any putts and after misjudging a short one on 11 it was nice to getting something going after that.

“Today was just about doing the best I could, my first weekend at Augusta and I wasn’t thinking about the lead at all.

“I got a lot closer and it was nice to play the last few holes with a bit of adrenaline, but there’s nothing you can do about the other guys.”

Four-time winner Tiger Woods (72) will start the final day 18 shots off the lead, with three-time champion Phil Mickelson (74) three shots further back.