AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - The 2018 U.S. Masters won by Patrick Reed did not end with a seismic shift in the golfing landscape but instead served as a reminder of how evenly-matched the world’s top players are in an era where Tiger Woods’ dominance is a thing of the past.
Make no mistake, despite being healthy again, Woods is no longer ‘the man’. Ten years removed from a major title, at 42 he might still be a factor but his long game is still a work in progress as he plays his way back after spinal fusion surgery.
He finished equal 32nd on Sunday and was barely an after-thought at Augusta National as three players in their 20s battled for the Green Jacket.
Raised with the modern power game, the under-30 crew have a fearless, aggressive mentality. Reed is one of them, a 27-year-old Texan with a chip on his shoulder and a Green Jacket in his wardrobe.
Despite five PGA Tour victories, a stellar Ryder Cup record, and finishing runner-up at the most recent major, the PGA Championship, Reed never featured in discussions about who is the best player without a major win.
But his game is ideally suited for Augusta, his stock shot a right-to-left draw on a course where most holes also move in that direction.
Reed is not one-dimensional, however. He can hit a fade on demand, as he showed with some of his drives on holes where left to right movement was needed.
Complementing his long game is a deft touch around the greens, a poised putting stroke and a bulldog tenacity that serves him well on the big stage.
Reed is hardly a gallery favourite, even in Augusta where he went to university, but he is unlikely to shed any tears over popularity contests.
While Reed was slipping into a Green Jacket, Rory McIlroy was left to assess exactly why he melted in the white-hot Augusta cauldron with a grand slam on the line.
A victory would have seen McIlroy, one of the best golfers of his generation, become one of only six men to have won all four modern majors.
Since playing in his first major 11 years ago at the British Open, McIlroy has proved to become one of the greatest drivers of all-time, while he also gets incredible height with his irons.
But his putting stroke can be suspect and it deserted him on Sunday.
He missed five putts from 10 feet or less on the front nine, most notably a four-footer for eagle at the par-five second that would have sent a roar around Augusta National and a shudder through his rivals.
McIlroy’s last major win came at the 2014 PGA Championship but at 28 will have plenty more chances to win the Masters.
Spieth is better than McIlroy in other departments, most notably on and around the greens, and the likes of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are not far behind.
Not since Spieth won the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open has a player won back-to-back majors. There have been 11 different winners of the last 11 majors.
Welcome to the new golf world.
Editing by Peter Rutherford