Masters 2018: Patrick Reed leads from charging Rory McIlroy

Story highlights

  • Patrick Reed leads after third round
  • Rory McIlroy three shots back
  • Will be final pairing on Sunday
  • Tiger Woods on four-over-par

(CNN)Patrick Reed will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Masters as a pair of eagles on the back nine at Augusta National kept a charging Rory McIlroy at bay Saturday.

Reed, who led by two at halfway, carded a five-under 67 for 14-under 202, putting impeccably under pressure to extend his advantage in search of his first major crown.
McIlroy pulled level with Reed at the top of the leaderboard after his eagle on the par-5 eighth but the American Ryder Cup star responded with birdies with a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth and then made stunning eagle threes on the 13th and 15th, the second after a chip-in.
    That left him with a five-shot lead but the combination of his first bogey of the day on the 16th and a brilliant McIlroy birdie on the last narrowed the gap.
    McIlroy, searching for his career grand slam with a Masters title, carded a superlative seven-under 65, the same score as Rickie Fowler, who is lying third a further two shots back and Spain's Jon Rahm, fourth on eight-under-par.
    "I absolutely loved it. It was great round of golf and I'm really proud of the way I handled it out there," said McIlroy.
    Sweden's Henrik Stenson was on seven-under, while two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, England's Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Leishman of Australia sit on six-under 210.
    Earlier, Tiger Woods recovered from a poor start to post a level-par 72 to remain at four-over-par in his first Masters appearance since 2015, tied for 40th.
    The 14-time major champion had been hoping for a "special weekend" but instead opened with back-to-back bogeys. He battled back to even par for the day with seven-foot birdie putts at the sixth and eighth and followed a bogey on the par-5 15th with a birdie on the next.
    The 42-year-old blamed his iron play for undermining his challenge for a fifth Masters title.
    "It has been scratchy this week," he said. "I'm not getting it done. My swing is just off with my irons."
    Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson has also failed to live up to pre-tournament expectations and opening with a triple-bogey seven after finding the trees on the first did not help his cause.
    The 47-year-old veteran eventually carded a two-over-par 74 for seven-over 223.
    "I'm just hitting some pretty bad shots," he said. "I'm hitting some good ones, but hitting a lot of really bad ones."
    Best of the early starters was England's Matthew Fitzgerald, who carded a five-under 67 to get back to level-par overall and give an early indication that scoring conditions on a course softened by rain would be easier than the first two days.
    Sunday will see Reed and McIlroy go head-to-head in the final pairing, with echoes of their epic Ryder Cup clash at Hazeltine in 2016 which the American won after a barrage of birdies from both young guns.
    "It's going to be a blast," said Reed, who will be aiming to become the first golfer to card under 70 for all four rounds at Augusta, while McIlroy hopes to become just the sixth man to win all four major titles.
    Fowler and world number three Jon Rahm, so impressive during their third rounds, will also be hunting their first majors.
    Other top-ranked contenders fared less well Saturday with Justin Thomas and 2015 winner Jordan Spieth nine shots adrift after rounds of 70 and 71 respectively, with top-ranked Dustin Johnson a shot further back.