AUGUSTA, Ga., April 8 (Reuters) - Fired up by analysts predicting a win for Rory McIlroy, not to mention an Augusta National crowd that seemed to be backing the Northern Irishman to complete the career grand slam, Patrick Reed powered to a one-stroke victory at the U.S. Masters on Sunday.
Reed, who saw off a fading McIlroy by the turn, then had to survive challenges from U.S. Ryder Cup team mates Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler before sinking a par putt at the last to win the Green Jacket and his first major championship.
“Listening to all the analysts this morning, every single one of them except (one) would pick Rory (McIlroy),” said Reed, who teed off with a three-shot lead over the Northern Irishman.
“It just seemed like the pressure at that point was kind of lifted off. No one expects me to go out and win. I expect to win. Everyone else, even though they said all those great things about how I was playing, they thought Rory was going to win.”
Reed also noticed the different receptions he and McIlroy received from the gallery.
“(Walking) up to the first tee I had a really welcoming cheer from the fans but when Rory walked up he had a little louder,” said Reed.
“It takes the pressure off me and hands it back to him. Rory’s cheer was a little louder.”
Apart from a first-hole bogey, Reed was impervious to the pressure for most of the day, watching McIlroy, in his quest for the career grand slam, self-destruct.
He then kept his nose in front of Fowler and Spieth for a one-shot victory, making clutch putts down the stretch, including a nerve-jangling five-footer for par at the penultimate hole, to shoot 71 and finish on 15-under 273.
“To win your first major is never going to be easy,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a dog fight.
“I always watch leaderboards, whether it’s the first hole on Thursday or the last hole on Sunday.
“I saw Jordan and Rickie storm up those leaderboards. I knew when I birdied 14 it was about the same time Jordan bogeyed the last.
“I knew at that point as long as there weren’t any catastrophic implosions coming in it was going to be between Rickie and I.
“The way those guys played towards the end, having to go shoot under par (in the final round to win your) first major was hard.”
He won in his fifth start at Augusta, the city where he went to university, Reed said this was the one he wanted to win.
“Definitely growing up everybody dreams about winning the Masters,” he said.
“Today was the hardest mentally a round of golf could possibly be.
“It was awesome and satisfying to make those clutch putts on the back nine.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford )