Saturday, 21 April, 2018

Rory putting pressure on Reed in Augusta duel

McIlroy is chasing a first major victory since 2014 McIlroy is chasing a first major victory since 2014
Cassandra Gardner | 10 April, 2018, 20:04

Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates a long birdie putt on the ninth green during third round play of the 2018 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta.

"I can't imagine there's going to be much chat out there tomorrow", McIlroy said.

After racing to the turn in 31, a birdie on the 12th - where he took seven in the final round in 2016 - was followed by another on the 13th after a stunning approach from the pine straw set up an eagle chance from 12 feet. The next was far more bold. I'm just out there playing golf.

A chip that likely would have gone off the green at the par-5 eighth banged into the pin and dropped for eagle. It was only one shot inside the cut line, which Woods flirted with before making birdies at the par-5 13th and 15th holes and closing with back-to-back pars.

McIlroy insists Reed, 14 under after three rounds, will be the man with the most pressure on his shoulders.

And just when Reed was getting away, McIlroy added birdies at 15 and 18 - where he drained a 17-foot birdie putt after a lucky carom off a tree.

"Any time you hear a bunch of roars, you're going to get excited, especially if you feel like you're playing some good golf", Reed said. "I felt that was a time where I had an opportunity. I just haven't gotten it done", Woods lamented. "You're not going to shoot a low score if you don't".

McIlroy should hope he hasn't used up all his luck. He managed to find his second shot among the azaleas on the 13th to escape with par. Just not as well as Rory McIlroy did when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, or Justin Thomas during a playoff win at the Honda Classic.

Sealing victory at the Masters has been McIlroy's main priority after four consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta National.

The verbal gamesmanship may have started early. McIlroy then delivered a stunning shot - a pitch-in for eagle from the right side of the eighth green, with nearly no green to work with, which tied him with Reed. That was more than enough to atone for the few times he got out of position, and his 6-under 66 put him atop the leaderboard for the first time in a major. He's got that to deal with and sleep on. Reed is 14 under, three strokes ahead of McIlroy.

"Hey, I'm leading", Reed said.

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"He's trying to go for the career grand slam. you can put it any way you want", he said.

He claims he doesn't feel the pressure. "Wake up and just come out and play golf". "When that went in, I thought, 'OK, forget about everything that's happened here".

Both realize that even with their Ryder Cup connection, this is hardly match play.

Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd as he walks to the 18th green.

Even though Reed and McIlroy were in different twosomes in the third round, their head-to-head battle actually began at the par-5 eighth hole.

In the opening rounds, Woods made a total of five birdies over 36 holes. He responded by making two birdies over the final six holes, helping him recover from the inauspicious start. Those who might have a say in the final outcome are Rickie Fowler (65) in third at 8-under, Jon Rahm (65) fourth at 8-under and Henrik Stenson (70) fifth at 7-under. He was at 8-under 208.

According to the Masters' website, golf legend Tiger Woods will be back on the course for a tee time of 11:10 a.m.

Needing a two-putt par from 25 feet at 18 to win, Reed gently tapped the first putt and saw it race four feet past the cup. "And I peaked at it four times over the course of my career, and it's tiring".

Now it's the missing piece of the slam.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the 2016 British Open victor, was fifth on 209 with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and first-time major win hopefuls Marc Leishman of Australia and Tommy Fleetwood of England on 210.

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