Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed set up a mouth-watering repeat of their Ryder Cup showdown as damp conditions failed to prevent fireworks in the 82nd Masters.
And, while Reed will start the final day with a three-shot lead on 14 under par, McIlroy will arguably have the momentum in pursuit of the win he needs to complete a career grand slam after a dramatic finish to a roller-coaster third round at Augusta National.
Reed responded to seeing McIlroy erase a five-shot overnight deficit by firing a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth and then making two eagles in the space of three holes on the back nine.
That took the 27-year-old five shots clear once more, but a three-putt bogey on the 16th gave the chasing pack renewed hope and McIlroy took full advantage with a birdie on the last.
The resulting 65 matched McIlroy’s opening round in 2011, when he led by four shots after 54 holes, but collapsed to a closing 80, while Reed’s 67 means he can become the first player in Masters history to card all four rounds in the 60s.
“I got on a nice run on the front nine before the birdies dried up, but to birdie two of the last four holes was huge, especially with that up and down on 17,” McIlroy said.
“It’s massive to be in the final group for the first time here since 2011. I feel like I learned an awful lot that day and hopefully I can putt that into practice tomorrow.
“I’m really excited to show everyone what I’ve got, to show Patrick Reed what I’ve got and all the pressure is on him. He went to Augusta State and has a lot of support and I’m hoping to come in here and spoil the party.”
On a day when intermittent showers helped making scoring easier, Rickie Fowler is five shots off the lead after a 65 which equalled the lowest round of the week posted minutes earlier by Spain’s Jon Rahm.
Rahm is six off the lead on eight under, with Henrik Stenson a shot further back and European number one Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson, and Marc Leishman on six under.
McIlroy began the day five shots off the lead held by Reed, but birdied the third and fourth and then almost holed his tee shot on the par-three sixth.
And the best was yet to come as the former world number one chipped in for an eagle on the par-five eighth.
That briefly gave McIlroy a share of the lead, only for Reed to respond with a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth – the fifth time this week he has compiled such a scoring burst.
McIlroy vs Reed. We've seen that somewhere before, haven't we?
Ah yes. There infamous battle during the Ryder Cup. What brilliant memories.
A bogey on the 12th cut Reed’s lead to two, but he responded with an eagle on the 13th – where McIlroy had to save par from deep in the Azaleas left of the green – to move four shots clear.
McIlroy recovered from a wild drive to birdie the 15th and reduce the deficit once more, only for Reed to chip in for his second eagle of the day on the same hole.