Rory McIlroy's ominous start, Jordan Spieth's incredible run and Patrick Reed gets the break(s) of a lifetime: The 2018 Masters Rewatch
This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
Outside of team events, golf is not a sport where the fans pick sides. Sure, there are a few outliers in every gallery who may be pulling harder for certain players based on a wager or just as a fan, but never, especially at Augusta, would anyone actively root against another player. The final round of the 2018 Masters was the closest the sport has ever come to wading into those waters.
That’s because Rory McIlroy, perhaps the most likeable great player on the PGA Tour, was going for the career Grand Slam, sitting three shots off the lead in the final group. His opponent? Patrick Reed, who American fans had happily backed against McIlroy the previous fall at Hazeltine National during the Ryder Cup.
But when he’s not wearing the red, white and blue, Reed is not exactly a popular character among hardcore golf fans, of which there are many at Augusta National. This was always going to be Rory’s day. The patrons didn’t even have to root against Reed to make that abundantly clear.
What unfolded next, however, was something completely unforeseen. A nearly historic final round from a player of equal likability and skill to McIlroy: Jordan Spieth. His incredible run, and a strong performance from another familiar face, made this one of the most fun back nines in recent Masters history, even if the man almost no one wanted to win ended up putting on the green jacket.
1.) To begin the broadcast, CBS cuts to the first tee, where Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were getting their final round underway. “Two great buddies, friends since they were teenagers,” says Jim Nantz. Not sure you guys knew that. Have you ever seen this photo?
Pretty cool stuff.
Jokes aside, this day felt special right from the jump. Spieth and Thomas. Rickie and Rahm. Rory and Reed. What a freaking BOARD after three days:
All that was missing was Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods, neither of whom were even within 10 shots of the lead. Following the Spieth/Thomas tee shots at No. 1, we do get our first glimpse of Woods, who was 18 (!!) shots back and putting for eagle at the 13th. He missed, cleaning up his birdie putt to pull within 17 of the leader, Reed. It cannot be stated enough how incredible it is that Woods went on to win the Masters the following year.
As for Mickelson, he posted the early round of the day, a five-under 67 to get to two over for the week. It wasn’t enough to beat Tiger, who finished T-32 to Phil’s T-36. By the way, CBS showed highlights of both their rounds, and I forgot Tiger almost aced the par-3 sixth.
2.) To the surprise of no one, Nantz had a field day with the storylines for his monologue, ending it with “the intersection of FATE and DESTINY at the Masters.” So perfect because it applied to Rory, Rickie, Rahm and Reed. The top story, of course, was McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam. “It’s cold, it’s in the 50s, but you could feel the heat, no question about it,” added Nantz following his pre-recorded monologue. “You know how I get,” he said to Nick Faldo. “This is like Christmas morning.” Damn straight Jim.
As CBS shows highlights from Saturday’s third round, I’m reminded of how much we all thought this was Rory’s tournament to win. This, despite the fact he was three back. He was fiery on Saturday, fist-pumping the hell out of his eagle chip-in at the par-5 eighth and his long birdie conversion at the 18th. Nantz had them roll tape of his press conference from Saturday night, when he subtly tweaked Reed. “Patrick is going for his first [major]. I’m going for something else.” Savage. McIlroy was extremely confident, at least before the round …
3.) O(h)M(y)G(od). L(augh)O(out)L(oud). This was the year Bubba Watson putted his ball INTO the bunker at the par-5 second. I shouldn’t be laughing, but I am cracking up. He tried to putt it through the fringe from the front of the green and yeah, it did not end well. Watson did get up and down for par, however.
While that was going on, Rory and Reed were getting introduced back at the first tee. The only thing I could compare it to is when an NBA starting five is introduced at a home arena. If Augusta was the Staples Center, the crowd treated Reed like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rory like LeBron James. But it was Rory who did his best KCP impression, hitting what has to be the worst opening tee shot of his career, by far. The thing went sideways, but somehow stayed in play. Even though he saved par, it was obvious he was doomed from the start.
Reed’s start was actually worse. Specifically, his third shot from the greenside bunker. He went on to make bogey, opening the door for everyone, including McIlroy, who somehow had the momentum after hitting that horrific tee shot.
4.) Because he was nine back to begin his round, Spieth’s birdie-birdie start was about as quiet as a birdie-birdie start could be. Then, after pars at three and four, he hit it to a foot at the fifth, setting up an easy birdie and essentially gaining a stroke on the field given the difficulty of that hole. Suddenly things were getting a tad real with Jordy.
After the par save at No. 1, Rory puts it to a few feet at the second, setting up a short eagle putt. Meanwhile, Reed found the front bunker with his second and had to eventually settle for par. Somehow, after the worst opening tee shot in history, McIlroy had a lay-up putt to tie for the damn lead. I think we all remember what happened next.
Still only one back, he had another easy birdie opportunity to tie Reed on the third. Instead, he bogeyed from 129 yards and Reed made his first birdie of the day to get back to 14 under, regaining his three-shot lead. There was so much hope for Rory after he saved par at No. 1 while picking up a shot on Reed and then gave himself a short eagle look at No. 2. Within minutes, he was back to where he started. Mood swing nation.
5.) After finishing off a three-under 69, his only sub-70 round of the week, Tiger spoke with Amanda Balionis and put on a vintage interview performance. “I drove it on a string. Another loose day with my irons. Putted awful. It was the highest score I could have shot.” If you were playing Tiger interview Bingo, the game would have been over in five seconds.
6.) Knowing how this whole thing ends makes what just happened at the par-4 seventh all the more difficult to watch. Spieth used the slope perfectly and set up a six-footer for birdie and didn’t even come close with his putt. Again, knowing what we know now, man, he could have used that one!
He did make up for it, making back-to-back birdies at eight and nine to finish off a front-nine 31. That got him to 10 under for the week, which eventually put him within three after Reed made bogey at the sixth. Things were happening.
Thank goodness for Spieth’s run, because there was quite a lull in the early round action. Reed and Rory weren’t exactly duplicating their Ryder Cup singles match fireworks, nor were Rahm and Fowler making much noise. Paul Casey was going low, but he peaked at seven under for the tournament before finishing at five under. Other than Spieth, the only energy was being provided by the crowd trying to will McIlroy to victory.
7.) And then everything flipped on a dime. Rahm, after hitting a bad approach and shouting “THAT is in the bunker” at the seventh, rolls in a long birdie putt to get to 10 under (his ball didn’t go in the bunker, in case you were wondering). Fowler, who was doing his usual Sunday routine of playing the first seven holes in one over, went birdie-birdie at eight and nine to also reach 10 under. Reed nearly holed out for eagle at the seventh, setting up a tap-in birdie to get him back to 14 under. They say the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday, but it felt like it started at the seventh hole in 2018.
8.) As down as McIlroy and the McIlroy faithful might have felt, he was still very much in this thing after a par at the seventh. At 11 under, he was only three back, the same place he was to start the day. Another poor drive at the eighth, however, robbed him of what should have been an easy birdie, although a par would have kept him within striking distance heading into the back nine, where anything can happen. After nearly chipping in for birdie, Reed made par, meaning McIlroy wouldn’t be losing a shot. Phew.
Aaaand he lipped out. Curtains.
9.) Spieth makes par at 11 and as he walks to the 12th tee, CBS played the “remember that time he choked here?” card, rolling the footage of his epic collapse in 2016. Cruel. Just plain cruel.
But, much like Ace Ventura in Roger Podacter’s apartment, Spieth exorcised the demons, flying it over the left bunker and landing it on the back fringe. He raised his arms in the air, smiled and high-fived caddie Michael Greller. Mission accomplished.
But that man wasn’t done! Not content to walk away with a two-putt par, Spieth poured in a birdie from deep and gave Greller a death stare-fist pump combo as if to say “oh sh*t I might pull this off.” What a freaking putt. Nine back to start the day, Spieth was now within three at 11 under, with the easy par-5 13th awaiting.
While that was going on, Charley Hoffman aced the 16th. Who says he only shows up at Augusta on Thursdays?
10.) Somehow Spieth one-upped himself at the following hole, where he pulled hybrid from the pine straw after a lengthy conversation with Greller. Remember that conversation? Oh, that’s right, CBS never showed it, though it was ripped from the Masters.com feed and subsequently posted to YouTube, where, miraculously, it still lives. Hybrid ended up being the right club, as Spieth’s ball just barely carried the water and onto the green, setting up a 12-footer for eagle that would have pulled him within one shot of Reed. But his putt never broke, instead staying right on its line and rolling past the left edge of the cup. “A deflating birdie if there ever was one,” said Dottie Pepper. Yep.
Man, rewatching this, I think I speak for all of us when I say we need this Spieth back. When he was dominating the sport he never really excited me, but I’ve come to realize that was a really stupid thought, especially while watching this again. The guy is a nut job in the best way possible out there, and this round may have been peak Spieth nuttiness. The pacing, the discussions with Greller, the one-way discussions with his own ball, the missed short putts, the made long putts, the hero shots, the emotions. It had everything. When Spieth is charging, it’s absolutely electric to watch.
11.) Sneaky shot of the day from Reed came at the 11th, where he blocked himself out with a wayward drive and had to punch out toward the water on the left. From there he scared the hole with his third with a ridiculous recovery shot. He actually missed the comeback par putt, squashing my whole “sneaky shot of the day premise.” Still, it could have been a lot worse. Up at 12, Fowler converts his birdie after sticking one tight, which puts him at 11 under. It was all happening at this point. Except for a late Rory run, of course. He made another bogey at 11 and dropped to nine under. This is even more depressing than I remembered.
Wow, what a response from Reed at the following hole. He drops one from deep for birdie and lets out a huge “COOOME ON” that could be heard clearly because, A) the delayed reaction from the crowd back at 12 tee, and B) the crowd really wasn’t that excited for him. The more I watch of this Reed round, the more I am impressed, despite how boring and methodical it was. He answered every bogey with a birdie soon after and just made sure to get the job done. Hard to hate on that when you’re the one eventually wearing the COAT.
12.) This is when the action reached a fever pitch. At 13, Fowler holed a birdie putt to get to 12 under. Soon after, Reed appeared to put his approach in the water at the par 5, but got the first of his two breaks of a lifetime when his ball stayed up in the rough, refusing to roll back into the water. Up at 16, the Spieth show continued, as he backed up his birdie at 15 with an absolute bomb at 16 for birdie to tie for the lead at 14 under, producing the loudest roar of the day and a “YES!!” from Verne Lundqvist. “Are you kidding me?” Spieth says to Greller, the natural reaction when you’re nine under for the day through 16 on Sunday at Augusta. Madness. Madness, I tell you! The pro-Rory crowd was now full pro-Spieth, evidenced by the clip of the guys posting the red 14 on the big scoreboard at the 18th to raucous applause. Tell us how you really feel about P-Reed guys!
13.) Low-key forgotten moment, at least for me, was Rahm taking dead aim at 15 and coming up just short, his ball rolling back into the water. Had that one carried he likely has a great look at eagle and a chance to reach 14 under.
14.) Oh no. No no no no no no no. Why Jordy, why? Minutes after Reed got back to 15 under with a birdie at 14, Spieth follows up a par at 17 with the second-worst tee shot of the day, sniping one into the left trees. “MISS IT, MISS IT!” he pleaded, to no avail. “He’s got at least 150 to the corner,” said Peter Kostis as the camera showed where is ball was short of the fairway in 25-handicapper territory. Honestly, I was a little harsh on the drive. It was a pull for sure, but not a snipe. And he got a brutal break as it caught a branch. Of course, he played a brilliant recovery shot with a hybrid and then hit his third to about eight feet, giving himself a chance at what would have been an all-time great par save and a nine-under 63. That would have tied Nick Price and Greg Norman for the lowest score in Masters history and set the record for lowest score in the final round.
However, sometimes it ain’t meant to be. Spieth missed, settling for 64 and a 72-hole total of 13 under. All I can think about is his short miss on the seventh and the eagle miss on 13. Add in the miss at 18 and you could easily make a case he should have shot 61 and won the Masters by one stroke.
15.) As if Rory’s Sunday wasn’t sad enough, CBS didn’t even show his tee shot on 16. Ouch. As for Reed, he hit one right at it and got one of the most subdued crowd reactions ever at the famous par 3. Double ouch.
16.) At this point, the only man who still had a chance at Reed was Fowler. As a veteran Fowler bettor who had him at 20-or-25/1 on this occasion, I knew I had basically zero chance. But in typical Fowler fashion, he dragged me back in on 18, where he stuffed his second shot to a few feet and converted the birdie to reach 14 under. Also in typical Fowler fashion, it ended up being juuuuust not enough.
However, it should have been enough. After a par at 16, Reed went way left at 17 with his approach, leaving him with a mile-long birdie putt. This is where that second “break of a lifetime” came. From 75 feet, Reed hammered one that raced right at the hole and caught the lip, slowing it down enough to leave him with a five-footer that he converted. Had it not hit the hole, he’s looking at it least 10 feet. That and his second hanging up in the rough at the 13th wound up being two pretty massive shots, some would say.
17.) Reed makes par to win. Yada. Yada. Yada.
We kid, we kid. Like I said, it was a hard-fought, two-under 70, enough to win the damn Masters. In other words, vintage Reed. Rewatching this only furthers my opinion of Reed being my No. 1 guy to have money on come Sunday. He’s got plenty of baggage and a questionable history with the rules, but he’s also got guts when it counts. Unfortunately, those guts robbed us of a potential three-way playoff with Spieth and Fowler, which probably would have been too much to handle for Golf Twitter anyway.
Should we mention Nick Faldo’s Imagine Dragons reference? Yeah, let’s not.
2018 Masters—Final Round Broadcast