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Patrick Reed shot a brilliant third-round 67 to reach 14-under and open up a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy heading into Sunday's final round. The forecast was dismal heading into Saturday, but the rain held off for the most part and led to ideal scoring conditions. Reed's round included eagles on the par-5 13th and 15th. On the week, Reed has demolished the par 5's playing them 13 under par through three rounds, despite entering the week 104th in par 5 scoring average on the PGA Tour. Trailing McIlroy and rounding out the top 5 are Rickie Fowler (-9), Jon Rahm (-8) and Henrik Stenson (-7).
Sunday tee times
Four years after declaring he was a "top 5" player, Patrick Reed gets his opportunity to take home his first major championship. It took Reed 15 major championships to register his first top 10 at last year's PGA Championship, and he has rode the momentum into this year. Reed's success (as noted in yesterday's newsletter) has come from his newfound ability to work the ball left-to-right. It will be fascinating to watch as Reed squares off against McIlroy, a familiar foe from 2016's memorable Ryder Cup match.
Going for history
Rory McIlroy shot a sensational 7-under 65 to pull into 2nd place and give himself a great shot at capturing the career grand slam. With a win, McIlroy would become the third youngest to complete the feat behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Rory's success has been thanks to a hot putter. McIlroy has been fantastic on birdie looks but also the clutch par saves that keep momentum going. It will be Rory's first time in the final group at the Masters since his 2011 meltdown, and he will look for his first major championship in a little less than four years. In his post-round interview, McIlroy asserted that all of the pressure was on Reed to win his first.
"I’m really excited to go out there tomorrow and show everyone what I’ve got, show Patrick Reed what I’ve got. All the pressure’s on him tomorrow…I’m hoping to come in and spoil the party."
Surely some early gamesmanship from the 4-time major winner. Rory's round in under 3 minutes
The other contenders
The largest comeback in the past 50 years at the Masters was Nick Faldo coming from six back of Greg Norman in 1996. Using that logic, it leaves only Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm outside of McIlroy within striking distance of Reed. It will be the second consecutive year that Fowler finds himself in the second-to-last group on a Sunday after a sensational 65 on Saturday. Fowler's one mistake came at the par-5 13th, where he made a questionable decision going for the green from the right rough and found the water. It was an overaggressive play to a back pin that makes for an easy up-and-down. Fowler will start the day five back from Reed and need a strong start to track down Reed and McIlroy. Rickie's round in under 3 minutes.
Jon Rahm finds himself in the second-to-last group despite his opening 75. Rahm has stormed up the leaderboard thanks to a Friday 68 and a Saturday 65 that included five birdies and an eagle. Rahm is making just his 43rd professional start, and it will be his first time in the thick of a major championship. One thing we do know, win or lose, Rahm will be peppered with Seve questions. Rahm's round in under 3 minutes.
Henrik Stenson's been a steady force this week but failed to take advantage of the soft Saturday conditions, shooting a 2-under-par 70. Stenson finds himself seven shots back and will need a Sunday performance like the 2016 Open Championship to have a chance of putting on the green jacket.
England's Tommy Fleetwood surged on the back nine with five straight birdies (12-16) to climb into contention. A costly three-putt on the 18th left him with a 66 and puts him 8 back of Reed on Sunday.
Tied with Fleetwood is 2-time Masters champion Bubba Watson at 6-under after a third-round 68. Watson's seven-birdie round was derailed by three bogeys in the middle of his round (8,9,11).
After watching his hook 3-wood on 15 during Friday’s round, it is hard to imagine that Marc Leishman would be 8 shots back heading into Sunday. Leishman never got any momentum going on the front nine and started pressing on the back nine. The pressure on Leishman mounted with every birdie from Reed, and he was unable to answer.
Starting the day 6 back and in wet conditions, the day set up perfectly for Justin Thomas to make a run at the lead. After going out in 34, JT sputtered to a back-nine 36 and finds himself nine behind Patrick Reed. Thomas has been the best player on the planet over the last 8 months, so it was surprising to see him not rise to the occasion.
Even after surrendering his first round lead, Jordan Spieth found himself in the third-to-final group on Saturday. Similar to other tournaments this spring, his putter let him down, and he fell further behind Reed.
Dustin Johnson started the round 6 shots back of Patrick Reed, so it was going to require a remarkable round to get into the mix. Still, there were three 65s and a 66 on Saturday as Dustin Johnson plodded around in -1, 71. The world #1 has struggled in recent months to capture his 2017 form, and Saturdayfurthered his trials.
What to expect tomorrow?
The weather forecast calls for cool temperatures in the mid-60s and moderate winds. The rains from today should keep the fairways soft, but Augusta's sub-air greens should get some fire back in the greens. The combination should make for difficult conditions with soft green surrounds but firm greens. This will favor players who can find the fairway and have a high trajectory (Rory). It will be the first time that Reed has been in the final group, but as we have seen in the Ryder Cup, he doesn't back down from big moments. I don't expect anyone but Reed or Rory to win, and according to Justin Ray, there have been eleven players with a 3-shot lead after 54 holes at the Masters, but only six have gone on to win.
Will Knights joined the podcast to breakdown Saturday's action and look ahead to Sunday's final round. Listen to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or the website.