Reed strengthens hold on Masters, lead McIlroy by three

Patrick Reed opened and closed the front nine with runs of three consecutive birdies then ran off another birdie treble on the back nine in shooting 6-under par 66 to stand on 9-under 135 after 36 holes at the 2018 Masters Tournament
AFP

Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Patrick Reed fired two late eagles on a rain-softened Augusta National course to seize a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy after the third round of the Masters on Saturday.

Reed’s 5-under par 67 for a 14-under total of 202 through 54 holes was his third straight round in the 60s and more than enough to keep him atop the leaderboard in search of his first major title, even as McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm all posted 7-under par 65s.

“I think the biggest thing is just going out and playing golf, trying not to let the moment overwhelm me,” said Reed, who notched his first top-10 at a major last August at the PGA Championship.

“I feel like I’m hitting the ball well enough, I feel like I’m putting well enough. I just need to go out and play the game.”

Reed certainly did that, his four birdies including three in a row at the eighth, ninth and 10th after McIlroy had pitched in for eagle at the eighth to pull level.

McIlroy, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a first Masters win, was alone in second on 205 with Fowler third on 207 and world number three Rahm on 208 after a day when threatened thunderstorms failed to materialize.

Instead, intermittent showers only served to make Augusta’s treacherous greens a little more benign.

Famed for his unflinching play on US Ryder Cup match play teams, 27-year-old Reed threatened to make it a runaway with his eagles at 13 and 15, swelling his lead to as many as five shots.

He curled in a 14-foot eagle putt at the 13th, then saw his chip at 15 hit the green and race toward the hole, striking the pin and dropping in.

“It was breaking so hard to the left, I couldn’t tell if it was going to go in or if it was just going to burn edges,” Reed said. “It was right in the middle.”

– Rory rides his luck –

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who started the day five shots off Reed’s halfway lead, started narrowing the gap with back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth.

After an unlikely par at the fifth, where his shot from the fairway bunker caught the lip but kept travelling, he tapped in for birdie at the sixth before holing his sand wedge for eagle at the eighth.

A run of six straight pars included a save at the 13th, where he waded into the azalea bushes to hit his third shot.

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.

“A great day,” McIlroy said. “I rode my luck a little bit out there. You know, the chip-in on the eighth hole, finding my ball in the azaleas on 13.

“Then hitting the tree on 18 and coming back in the fairway and making a birdie from that — hopefully I don’t have to rely on it too much tomorrow.”

Although Reed and McIlroy are old Ryder Cup foes, both said they couldn’t afford to focus on each other on Sunday.

Fowler, also seeking a first major title, kick-started his round with an eagle at the par-5 second and added five more birdies in a bogey-free effort.

Spain’s Rahm, 23, also played without a bogey and was one stroke in front of former British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who carded a 70 for 209.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson posted a 68 to share sixth on 210 with England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Australian Marc Leishman.

Fleetwood’s 66 included five straight birdies on the back nine while Leishman, who entered the day trailing Reed by two, had just one bogey in his 1-over 73.

– Frustration for Woods –

Four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods was left spinning his wheels on Moving Day.

The 14-time major champion, who insisted as he set out to close a 13-shot deficit on Saturday that he was looking for a “special weekend”, opened with back-to-back bogeys on the way to a 72.

Woods, back at Augusta for the first time in three years, hit 4-of-14 fairways but said his real problem continued to be poor iron play.

“It has been scratchy this week. I’m not getting it done. My swing is just off with my irons,” said Woods, who admitted he now had his sights set just on trying to get to even par for the tournament on Sunday.

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