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Final day battle looms between Reed and McIlroy

Reed in action today (Photo: Augusta National )
Twenty-four hours is possibly all that remains between either a breakthrough major championship or the completion of a career Grand Slam with American Patrick Reed taking a three-shot lead over Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy into tomorrow’s final round of The Masters.

Reed’s third round of 67 which included four birdies, two eagles and three bogeys, extended his overnight lead of two to three but now over McIlroy with another two shots back to Rickie Fowler. While Masters’ Sunday can throw up all sorts of scenarios it may well be the battle in the final pairing that holds most interest.  

Jon Rahm is another shot back, he McIlroy and Fowler all producing the low rounds of the day (65) to keep their hopes alive.

Like most of the field, Reed struggled early as he adapted to a golf course softened by rain earlier in the day and occasionally during the round and said as much in his post round interview.

“Early on I felt like I kind of struggled a bit with how far the ball was going and how much it was reacting on the greens since the last couple of days we have been playing for so much bounce and roll out.

“I was able to adapt after about the 4th hole and from that point on it seemed to get back into the rhythm of how I have been playing and hopefully I can adapt a little quicker tomorrow and be able to figure it out on the first hole rather than the 4th.”

Tomorrow McIlroy and Reed face off in what is expected to be an epic encounter. With the golf course softened up by the rain over the last 24 hours, today showed that some very low scoring is possible and while the final pair are the likely contenders for the title others still have their chance.

They will need something special however and a little bit of help from Reed who appears to be focusing on the job at hand rather than worrying about the outcome.

“I think the biggest thing is just going out and playing golf,” he added. “You know, trying to not allow the moment to take over me.  Really just go out and play some golf and just hit golf shots.

“I feel like I'm hitting the ball well enough, I feel like I'm putting well enough; that I just need to go out and play the game and not worry about everything else and just play golf.

“I'm not out there to play Rory. I'm out there to play the golf course. At the end of the day, if I go out and I feel pleased with how I play, then, you know, it should be an enjoyable Sunday night.

“But really, I'm just going to go out there and enjoy the day, go out and play some golf and hopefully go out and shoot another round in the 60s.”

McIlroy would like to be a little closer but he is excited about the prospect of atoning for his last nine hole demise at Augusta National seven years ago when he fell from a substantial lead on the 10th tee to a 15th place finish.

“Yeah, I've been waiting for this chance, to be honest," he said. " I always have said that, you know, 2011 was a huge turning point in my career.  It was the day that I realized I wasn't ready to win major championships, and I needed to reflect on that and realize what I needed to do differently.

“But now I am ready. I learned a lot from it. I'm happy to be in the final group. Obviously I'm not in the lead like I was going into that day, so I probably don't have as much pressure. I don't have to protect anything. I can go out and sort of free‑wheel like I did today, which is a great position to be in.

“I wish I was a little closer to the lead or leading, but I'm in the final group and I've shot 65 on moving day at the Masters.  It's all I can ask for.”

Fowler kept his hopes alive with an early eagle, two late birdies and a lot of good stuff in between.

“I think the biggest thing is continuing to do what we've done well all week, is the mental process of making sure that I'm ready to hit each and every shot, and it's going to take my putter staying hot the way it is and the way it should be,” said Fowler.

“So we're definitely in the golf tournament.  I'm going to need to play the front nine well tomorrow and put myself really in the mix for when this golf tournament starts, which is the final nine holes.”

Rahm said after his round just how much he enjoys playing at Augusta National and where it sits on his list of golf courses.  

“Close to No. 1 to be honest.  I try to describe myself as a creative player.  I think I'm pretty imaginative, although, since luckily for me, I don't miss many fairways.  I don't have to use it very often, right.  But I do believe I'm a creative player just because I grew up on a place, tree‑lined with tough greens and I know how to use that, so I know how to get out of trouble.

“So a place like this is perfect for someone like me.  And then, anyways, it's one of those places that as soon as you come here, just my eye, it suits my eye perfectly.  I think out of those 18 holes, 17 suit my eye perfectly and the one that doesn't is 7, and I don't think it suits anybody's eye because it's so difficult.

“The atmosphere you get around here is so positive, is so great.  You know, it makes me trust every part of my game fully, especially around the greens.  I love greens that are as sloped as those are because you can't be ‑‑ there's no straight putts and there's no easy break.”

Marc Leishman began the day in 2nd place and just two behind but he had what must have been one of his most frustrating days.

A series of near misses in the middle of his round cost him any chance of staying as close to the lead as he needed to be in order to contend for the title tomorrow but something very special on Sunday and a little help from others might see him surpass his previous best Masters finish of 4th in 2013.

He explained his frustrations after the round.  “A bit of rain and, yeah, it's hard to make putts on hilly greens when you don't have the right speed.  I hit a lot of good putts, just weren't going in, wasn't my day. 

“So hopefully I can have a good one tomorrow.  Still feel really good over the ball, feel really good over the putter, felt like I was going to make them, it was just the putter today.  Try to get a few back tomorrow.”

A full review of the Australians performances can be found here   

Full Scores 

Rhythmic Rory McIlroy









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