Patrick Reed held off fellow Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler to claim his first major title with a one-shot win at the Masters at Augusta.
The world number 24, who had been ahead since the second round, led Rory McIlroy by three shots overnight.
McIlroy, chasing his first Green Jacket to complete the Grand Slam, faded with a two-over 74, while Reed parred the last to shoot 71 and win on 15 under.
Fowler (67) ended second, one ahead of Spieth, who had nine birdies in a 64.
Reed, 27, said: “I knew it was going to be tough.
“Any time trying to close off a golf tournament is really hard but to close off my first major at a place that’s so close to me, being where I went to college, means so much.
“I knew the lead would shrink and grow – it’s just the flows of golf, you have to know how to handle it and the way I could get that done was to make sure the putter was working.
“Just to make par on the last and to watch the ball go in the hole and know that I’ve won my first major – to finish off that drought – meant so much to me.”
Reed relentless as McIlroy fades
The scene was set for a classic duel between the final pair, Reed and McIlroy, with expectations for a repeat of their epic match at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American shaded by one hole.
But the 28-year-old Northern Irishman, who surged into contention with a bogey-free 65 on Saturday, cut a disconsolate figure and he was the only one of the top 16 to return an over-par final round.
“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here – it just wasn’t meant to be,” said McIlroy, who has won four majors, the last of them the 2014 PGA Championship.
“I think 100% I can come back and win here. I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top-10s, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times.”
Although it was not the collapse of 2011 when he squandered a four-shot lead with a final round of 80, McIlroy was unable to produce his sparkling best and made only one birdie in the closing 14 holes.
Reed is the ninth first-time major winner in the past 12 Masters and all four major championships are now held by Americans – all of whom are aged 27 or under.
Spieth won last year’s Open, Brooks Koepka the US Open and Justin Thomas the US PGA Championship.
Both Reed and McIlroy hit errant drives at the opening hole but, while Reed dropped a shot, McIlroy saved his par.
They could have been level at the second when McIlroy hit a majestic second to four feet at the par five and Reed found the bunker.
But McIlroy missed his eagle chance and then missed the green at the third to drop a shot, while Reed rattled in a putt from the fringes of the green for a birdie to regain his three-shot advantage.
Another imperious iron shot from McIlroy to three feet set up a birdie at the par three fourth but he missed another short putt at the next to fall three shots back again.
Twice Reed followed bogeys with birdies as he combated the challenge of the world number seven.
Spieth and Fowler charge into contention
However, there were challenges coming from further down the leaderboard.
Spieth, who began nine shots behind Reed, had five birdies in his opening nine holes and claimed sole possession of second place on 11 under when he holed from off the green at the 12th.
The Texan almost followed it with an eagle at the par-five 13th after a superb iron to 12 feet from the pine straw but his putt stayed right and he tapped in for birdie.
Reed moved two clear again when he rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt from the back of the 12th green but Spieth was soon tied at the top, with birdies on the 15th and 16th – the latter a 33-foot putt.
However, Reed regained the lead with a birdie from eight feet at the 14th.
The roar that greeted Spieth’s putt on 16 in comparison to Reed’s on 14 gave a clear indication of who the Augusta National patrons wanted to win.
In fact, right from the first tee, the fans appeared to be siding more with McIlroy than Reed and once they realised the Northern Irishman was fading, they cheered every change to the leaderboard that favoured Spieth, or indeed Fowler, over the man who went to university in Georgia.
BBC Radio 5 live commentator John Murray pointed out that there were groans around the 15th green and 16th tee when Spieth’s bogey at the last was registered on one of the on-course leaderboards. Reed was about to putt for par on the 15th at the time.
And when Reed walked on to the 18th green the BBC’s Iain Carter noted the reception was “respectful” rather than the “whooping and hollering” normally reserved for a champion in waiting.
Spieth had needed a par at the last to equal the course record but his final drive clipped a tree and went only 177 yards, leaving him 267 to the green, which took him another two shots.
He then missed an eight-foot par putt to set the clubhouse target at 13 under.
Fowler, playing in the penultimate group and like Reed searching for a first major, came closest to usurping his compatriot, with six birdies in his final 11 holes.
While the crowd were captivated by the thrilling charge from Spieth, the slightly built 29-year-old Fowler, who was five off the lead going into the final round, quietly moved up the leaderboard.
Birdies on the 12th, 13th and 15th holes pushed him to 13 under.
The world number nine, who added second place at the Masters to runner-up finishes at the US Open and The Open, sent his approach to seven feet for a birdie at the last to set the clubhouse target, but Reed, who played the final seven holes in two under, calmly negotiated the 18th to take the coveted Green Jacket.
Rose leads English challenge
Justin Rose conceded he had “a nearly week” after finishing as the leading Englishman, making six birdies in a final round 69 to tie for 12th.
He told BBC Sport: “I got some momentum going and saw some signs I was going to make some putts but at Augusta if you’re one or two yards out you go from hero to zero.
“I find it amazing that the winner normally comes out of the last group because I think it’s a golf course where a huge comeback is possible.”
Paul Casey was also in sight of the Augusta National course record of 63, jointly held by Nick Price (1986) and Greg Norman (1996).
The 40-year-old, who won the Valspar Championship last month, was five over after two rounds to make the cut on the number.
He played his first 15 holes in nine under and needed one more birdie in the final three for the record, but he bogeyed the last two for a 65 and finished in a share of 15th on five under.
Tommy Fleetwood bogeyed two of the final four holes for a 74 and finished joint 17th with PGA champion and world number two Justin Thomas on four under.
Matt Fitzpatrick had two double bogeys in a 75 and share of 38th at three over.
Ian Poulter, who won last week in Houston to earn his place at Augusta, had seven birdies in a closing 69 and finished four over alongside Tyrrell Hatton, who had six birdies in his 70 to compensate for a double bogey at the 15th.
Tony Finau, who dislocated an ankle in exuberant celebration of a hole-in-one in Wednesday’s par-three competition, rolled in six consecutive birdies from the 12th to finish at seven under.
The solitary hole-in-one in the main event came from fellow American Charley Hoffman, who made the 20th ace at the 16th in Masters history and he ended in a tie for 12th.
Four-time champion Tiger Woods, who won the last of his 14 major titles 10 years ago, completed his first four rounds at a major since the 2015 Masters with an eagle at the 15th in a round of 69 for a share of 32nd on one over par.
World number 18 Phil Mickelson, three times a Masters champion, also eagled the 15th, having made an eagle at the eighth on Saturday, and finished a fluctuating week with a 67 and a two over total for a share of 36th.
There were a total of 19 sub-70 rounds on the final day, but Reed’s 71 ensured that no player has yet compiled a week of four rounds in the 60’s in the history of the Masters.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/43692604