Final-round preview: Of Patrick, Rory, Rickie and the powers that be at Augusta National

McIlroy and Reed on final-round pairing. (1:39)

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed discuss their intense Ryder Cup matchup and playing together Sunday in the final round of the Masters. (1:39)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The final round of Masters always strives for drama. The 2018 installment has some in place heading into Sunday, with Patrick Reed chasing his first green jacket, Rory McIlroy trying to finish off his career Grand Slam and Rickie Fowler hoping to make a charge from five shots back to claim his first major title.

So here is what to expect heading into Sunday's final round:

Will Augusta try to get even on Sunday?

Given the likelihood of rain Saturday, Augusta National was set up with some tough weather conditions in mind for the third round. And when those conditions were not as poor as expected, players took advantage, facing what turned out to be the easiest scoring chances of the tournament.

How will those in charge of the Masters react for Sunday's final round? Do they set it up for fireworks, as has been the case in recent years, with birdies galore and plenty of excitement? Or do they make it tough, assuring that the tournament scoring record of 270 is not challenged?

"It was as easy as I think you're going to get them at Augusta, pretty much," said Tommy Fleetwood, who shot 66.

There were three players -- McIlroy, Fowler and Jon Rahm -- who shot 65, which is the most players shooting 65 or better in a single round in 30 years. And there were 11 rounds in the 60s, a total of 25 rounds under par.

The third-round scoring average of 71.26 was more than three strokes easier than Friday's second round. And it was the lowest third-round average since 1986.

"It was a little bit softer," McIlroy said. "The fire was taken out of the greens a little bit. The greens were probably a foot slower than yesterday, and that made all the difference."

When Rory and Patrick meet

Everyone remembers when McIlroy and Reed met in the 2016 Ryder Cup. The two put on a match for the ages. They combined for eight birdies and an eagle over the first nine holes of a match Reed would eventually win 1-up. But what happens when they walk side-by-side in stroke-play? It's happened four times, including twice at the Masters.

The two played together in the first two rounds here in 2014:

  • Round 1: McIlroy 71; Reed 73

  • Round 2: McIlroy 77; Reed 79

They also played together in the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship:

  • Round 1: Reed 66; McIlroy 70

  • Round 2: McIlroy 67; Reed 74

"I'm not out there to play Rory," Reed said. "I'm out there to play the golf course."

Rickie's recent last-day woes

Fowler is five back heading into the final round, but has only two players in front of him. Fowler posted a bogey-free 65 on Saturday for his best round in a major championship and trails only Reed and McIlroy. So, does he have another low round in him? Lately, no. Fowler has struggled in the final round of tournaments this season. That will have to stop if he wants to make a push and win his first major title on Sunday.

Knowing he has some ground to make up -- he is five shots behind Reed and two shots back of McIlroy -- could help free Fowler up as he tries to put some pressure on the final pairing.

"I'm a ways back," Fowler said. "We're five back. It's definitely well within striking distance, especially at this place. Anything can happen. This tournament really gets going once you make the turn on Sunday. So I still have to just go out and take care of my business and go play a solid front nine of golf. We're ready to do that."

When the key players hit the course

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From the senior tees

Sure, Sunday's late groups will be the young guys chasing a green jacket. But earlier in the day, two old-timers who know a thing or two about winning on Sunday will go out for a round together. The 11:20 a.m. ET pairing will have 58-year-old Fred Couples alongside 60-year-old Bernhard Langer.

Couples, the 1992 champion, has been fighting through back issues all week, made the cut for the 30th time in his Masters career. Langer, the 1985 and 1993 champion, is playing the weekend for the 24th time.