Masters Sunday: Reed, McIlroy, Fowler, Rahm in line to win

Devil Ball Golf

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Masters Sunday, the two most beautiful words in sports. It’s here, and man, it’s damn near perfect this year. Virtually every major talent in the game is near the top of the leaderboard, and storylines aplenty will dominate Sunday afternoon. With all due respect to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, this is the best possible Masters we could have expected – monster talents playing at the very top of their game. Let’s run down the key players within striking distance of the lead:

Patrick Reed (-15)

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How he got here: By throttling the entire field like he was strutting through a Ryder Cup. Reed sat three strokes off the lead after the first day, but captured the top spot on Friday and may well have iced the whole damn tournament on Saturday.

His record at Augusta: Like his record in all majors, not great: two missed cuts, a T22 and a T49. But he’s set up to wipe that ugliness away forever.

Key moment: The monumental eagle at 15 that gave him a five-shot lead:


His prospects to win: Not quite a lock, but getting close. He’s dialed in, with one arm already in a green jacket, and he’s not giving that up without a bar fight.

Rory McIlroy (-11)

How he got here: By chipping away and avoiding any bogeys on the back nine. He shot three-under on Thursday, one-under on Friday, and then torched the course to put himself just three shots behind – and in the same final pairing with – his old Ryder Cup rival Reed.

His record at Augusta: In nine visits, he’s recorded four top-10 finishes, all coming in the last four years. He’s best known, of course, for his utter meltdown on the back nine in 2011, which ought to serve as a cautionary tale for anyone thinking Reed’s got this thing locked down.

Key moment: The eagle at 8 that gave him a share of the lead:


His prospects to win: Better than they were about 15 minutes before the end of the round. McIlroy stepped to the 16th tee five strokes behind Reed, but nearly halved that gap with a birdie and a Reed bogey. He’ll need every trick in his psychological arsenal, but he’s got the ability to run down Reed.

Rickie Fowler (-9)

How he got here: By playing respectable golf – two-under on Thursday, even par on Friday – until he could get into position to deliver his best round ever at Augusta, a 65 that marked his first bogey-free round in 29 attempts at the Masters.

His record at Augusta: He’s made the cut in seven of the eight Masters he’s played, with his best finish a T5 in 2014.

Key moment: The 5th hole, where he turned certain disaster into an unlikely birdie:


His prospects to win: Not ideal. He’s carrying that unfortunate Best Never To Win A Major label, and to shed it Sunday, he’ll have to work. But if he keeps putting the way he did Saturday, and the leaders give him any bit of daylight, he could enter the conversation.

Jon Rahm (-8)

How he got here: He’s got to be as surprised as anyone, given the fact that he was three over and nine strokes off the lead after the first day. But a combination of a three-under day Friday and a beautiful 65 Saturday have put him within sight of Reed, if not necessarily within striking distance.

His record at Augusta: He’s played exactly once, last year, and finished T27. He’ll have to manage his always-turbulent emotions – he was angry enough to hurl a club earlier this week – and he doesn’t have much to draw on in the way of experience.

Key moment: The birdie on 16 that helped vault him up the leaderboard.


His prospects to win: He’ll need plenty of help, both from his putter and from the three ahead of him. He can’t afford to give away a single hole, but if he can play like he did Saturday, carving stroke after stroke off his card, he’ll hold up his end of the deal.

Also in the mix:

• Henrik Stenson (-7), always a threat, is probably too far back at to outrun four horses, but he’ll give it a go.

• Tommy Fleetwood (-6) and Bubba Watson (-6) both dropped strong rounds and deserve to be closer than eight strokes back.

• Mark Leishman (-6) posted a one-over round Saturday, which is the equivalent of throwing your car in reverse on the highway.

Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson waited too long to step on the gas, letting the field pull nearly out of sight. They’re each at five-under (four-under for Johnson) and let a great Saturday scoring opportunity get away from them.

So there you have it. The field is set, the stakes are astronomical. Going to be one fine Sunday in Augusta. See you there, folks.

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/244960/" data-ylk="slk:Patrick Reed">Patrick Reed</a> is loving life now, but will he win a green jacket? (AP)
Patrick Reed is loving life now, but will he win a green jacket? (AP)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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