Patrick Reed was not to be denied his shot at a green jacket.
Reed, playing in his fifth Masters Tournament without a prior top-20 finish, withstood one of the most dramatic comeback attempts in tournament history Sunday to slip on the green jacket. He shot 1-under-par 71 to finish 15-under, one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler and two ahead of Jordan Spieth.
The final round was billed as a 2016 Ryder Cup rematch between final-pairing companions Reed and Rory McIlroy, with the potential for a heavyweight bout between bulldogs.
Spieth had other plans in the form of pure second-nine drama at Augusta National Golf Club.
The 24-year-old Spieth, already with his name in the tournament record book from a historic 2015 victory, gave a fellow Texan all he had by shooting 64 to erase a nine-stroke deficit entering the final round.
Spieth posted nine birdies and elicited the Sunday roars made famous around Augusta National’s pine trees as he matched shot for shot with Reed on the second nine. The train ran out of steam on the final two holes, however, as Spieth made par on 17 and bogey on 18 to miss tying the 18-hole tournament record by a stroke and fall just short of a potential second green jacket.
The 27-year-old Reed, with ties to Augusta as a former All-American and two-time national champion at Augusta State University, never wavered through a round that saw his lead disappear as late as halfway through the second nine.
Reed, with nerves of steel proven throughout his career, buckled down on the biggest stage by holding off a fiery Spieth and clutching to a tight lead over the final four holes.
Fowler, who trailed a few shots behind Reed throughout the day, reached his closest point to the lead after a birdie on 18 to get to 14-under while Reed split the fairway behind him. For Reed, it just meant another test to pass, and he did so with flying colors with a par on the last hole.
For his day, Reed carded four birdies and three bogeys, his first round above 70 over the four days. He fell just shy of becoming the first player to record all four rounds in the 60s, but it didn’t prevent him from slipping into the green jacket in the 82nd Masters.
While Spieth made his charge, Reed chugged along at an even-par pace, swapping out a 13- and 14-under total for most of the day.
Ahead by one stepping to the intimidating 12th tee, Reed stared down any potential trouble by hitting the back fringe and draining a 22-foot birdie putt to get to 14-under and two ahead.
Spieth made birdie on 13 to take over second place alone at 12-under, and then drained a six-footer for birdie on 15 to reach 13-under, one back.
Reed’s second shot on 13 nearly found the tributary in front of the green but stayed up by blades of grass. He recovered to make par and stay ahead by one.
The latest roar to echo through the pine trees around the 16th hole was produced by Spieth when he drained a 33-foot birdie putt to reach a tie with Reed at 14-under. For a minute, the talk of a comeback of historic proportions was real.
As Reed has often done in his career, he played stopper and hushed the conversations. A birdie from eight feet on 14 put him back on top at 15-under with four holes to play.
As Reed and Spieth battled, it became clear that McIlroy wouldn’t participate. His putter failed him by missing a short eagle attempt on 2, a five-footer for par on 5 and a nine-footer for birdie on 9. Bogeys on 11 and 14 essentially took him out of the running.
He shot 2-over 74 and tied for fifth.