Rory vs. Reed: The Masters showdown everyone wanted
I don’t remember too much about the last Ryder Cup – I’ve successfully managed to block most of it from my memory – but the one thing that always crashes into my brain like a lightning bolt is the 8th hole in the Sunday singles.
Rory McIlroy holed an absolute bomb on the Hazeltine par 3, chucking it in from more than 60 feet, before venting some pent up passion to the thousands round the green.
I almost dislocated my shoulder cheering, only to see Patrick Reed pour one in on top, shake his finger in mock outrage and go on to edge Europe’s talisman in a battle royale that ended any faint hopes of a final day revival.
It was epic and, with a major on the line and the pair again going head-to-head, surely this Sunday at The Masters is also going to go down in the history books.
McIlroy was magnificent at Augusta on Saturday. When you see him playing like this, you wonder why he hasn’t gone all Tiger and dominated the game.
Memorable off the tee, some of his iron play was just a pleasure to watch.
After that slightly fortuitous chip-in on the 8th, it looked like the course record might have been under threat following an opening 31.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 7, 2018
What was most impressive, though, and something that’s not always been show here in the past, was his grit on the back nine.
How on earth did he manufacture a par out of the azaleas on the 13th?
When the question has been asked he has, so far at least, had the answers. It was a 65 of pure class. He has never had a better chance to win the career Grand Slam.
And yet he still trails by three.
Reed is playing the role of pantomime villain in this final act to perfection.
The American is a one-on-one giant who should be an icon but many of the ‘patrons’ are aghast he might win the Green Jacket.
Whether it was when he started turning out in Tiger’s sacred red and black on Sundays, or some of the more colourful aspects of his background (just Google it), Reed is seemingly the guy everyone loves to hate.
Anyone can win is the prevailing view, as long as it’s not him.
Adversity, though, stirs something in Reed. When it’s him against the world he becomes a human roadblock.
It’s why he’s so awe-inspiring at the Ryder Cup.
Just look what happened when McIlroy caught up towards the end of Saturday’s front nine.
Reed birdied the 8th, sunk a magnificent putt up the hill at the following hole and then added another birdie at 10 to stretch his lead to three.
It was a bull-headed response.
He has shown no signs of folding. Even when he bogeyed 12, the eagle that followed was simply wondrous. The chip-in on 15 was just ridiculous.
Only the dropped shot on 16 provided any chink of light.
But as big as his lead is, and for all his confidence, arrogance – whatever you want to call it, this is still the first 54-hole lead he’s held in a major.
McIlroy knows only too well how tough a task it is to win when lifetime membership of the Green Jacket club is at stake.
He, of course, splurged a four-shot lead in 2011 and the knowledge of that, along with what he learned from the experience, will give him hope.
We’re all set for a final day clash that could resonate in Masters folklore. And I, like the rest of the watching world, just can’t wait.