AUGUSTA, Ga., April 8 (Reuters) - Unusually cool weather greeted spectators as they filed into Augusta National for what many expect will be a heated battle between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed for the U.S. Masters Green Jacket on Sunday.
A total of 53 golfers will tee off in the final round of the year’s first major but all eyes will eventually be on the final pair of Reed and McIlroy who have turned the chase for the Masters title into a two horse race.
Reed, seeking his first major win, will start the day with a three shot cushion at the top of the leaderboard. He will be chased by McIlroy, who needs a Masters victory to complete a career grand slam.
McIlroy, who threw away a four-shot lead in the final round at Augusta in 2011 when he was still chasing a maiden major, has since captured wins at each of golf’s three other blue riband events and is closer than ever to completing his collection.
Both men have gone to great pains to not make Sunday’s final round into a match play contest but with the next closest challenger, Rickie Fowler, five off the pace, the Northern Irishman and American are sure to hold the spotlight.
Four-times champion Tiger Woods, whose Augusta National homecoming was not as spectacular or entertaining as expected, was among the first to tee off as he was sitting a whopping 18 shots behind the leader.
Playing his first Masters since 2015 after battling back issues, hopes were high that the former-world number one would be in contention for a fifth Green Jacket after a promising run up to the Masters that included a tie for second at the Valspar Championship and a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Still fighting his way back to top form after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last April, Woods offered glimpses of the skill and talent that lifted him to 14 major titles but was never in serious contention. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)