Augusta, Ga. – Whether to evoke nostalgia, deflect raindrops or throw shade, Patrick Reed popped open his 2016 Hazeltine National Ryder Cup umbrella on the back nine of the Masters on Saturday the way a 30-something might slip on his high school letter jacket.
On Sunday, Reed will play in the final pairing with Rory McIlroy while holding the 54-hole lead, trying at once to re-enact his greatest moment, awaken memories of his college national titles and win his first major championship.
Reed became famous in Minnesota and around the world for beating McIlroy in Ryder Cup matches featuring both fist-pumping and fist-bumping. Their rivalry now spans from Lake Hazeltine to Rae’s Creek.
“I’m really excited to go out there tomorrow and show everyone what I’ve got, show Patrick Reed what I’ve got,’’ McIlroy said. “All the pressure’s on him tomorrow. I’m hoping to come in and spoil the party.”
“It will be calmer,’’ Reed said. “There’s a lot of stuff you can do at a Ryder Cup you can’t do at Augusta National. You’re talking about polar opposites. But it’s going to be electrifying.’’
Reed, Rory, Rickie, Rahm and rain turned moving day at the Masters into the kind of spectacle supposedly dependent on the presence of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Instead, Reed and McIlroy will do what Tiger and Phil never did — stare each other down in the last pairing at the Masters.
Saturday, Reed shot a 67 to reach 14 under par. He’ll take a three-stroke lead over McIlroy into the final round.
McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm each shot 65 — marking the first time three players did so in the same Masters round. Fowler stands at 9 under and Rahm at 8 under.
Reed is trying to prove that his Ryder Cup success is a product of more than raw emotion. McIlroy is trying to become the sixth player in history to win the career grand slam.
At Hazeltine, McIlroy alternately screamed at the crowd and held his hand behind his ear after making big putts. Reed countered with finger-wags and the kind of histrionics associated with professional wrestling.
“I am leading,’’ Reed said. “At the same time, he’s trying to go for the career grand slam. You can put it either way.’’
No player has ever shot four rounds in the 60s in one Masters. Reed will attempt to change that. He entered the tournament ranked 101st on the PGA Tour in par-5 scoring, yet he is 13 under par on the par-5s through Saturday, giving him a chance to break the record of 15 under on par-5s for the tournament.
As is always the case on Sunday at the Masters, history lurks. McIlroy held the 54-hole lead in 2011, but a wild hook on the 10th tee ruined his tournament.
Saturday, McIlroy called himself “lucky.” His approach out of a bunker at No. 5 didn’t clear the lip yet bounded onto the green for an easy par. His second shot on the par-5 13th found the azaleas left of the green, but he nudged it out to save par. He hit a tree on No. 18 only to see the ball bounce into the fairway, setting up a birdie.
“It was a sea of pink on 13,” he said. “I was lucky just to see the ball. Azaleas are pretty thin down below. I was able to trundle it out through the pine straw.’’
The man who beat him in the Ryder Cup stands between McIlroy and history.
“I’ve been waiting for this chance,’’ McIlroy said. “I always have said that 2011 was a huge turning point in my career. It was the day I realized I wasn’t ready to win major championships, and I needed to reflect on that and realize what I needed to do differently. I’m ready.”
Reed will carry his Hazeltine umbrella, McIlroy memories of hitting a house left of the 10th fairway. Under the enforced gentility of Augusta National, golf’s best active rivalry will simmer amid the azaleas.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: email@example.com