Patrick Reed held off a tumultuous final-round charge from Jordan Spieth and a late rally from Rickie Fowler to clinch Masters glory as Rory McIlroy suffered further heartbreak at Augusta National.
With McIlroy out of the running after missing a series of short putts, Spieth came from nine behind at the start to earn a share of the lead with Reed when he rolled in his ninth birdie putt of a potentially record-breaking round at the 16th.
But a costly bogey at the last gifted valuable breathing space to overnight leader Reed, whose one-under 71 was enough to claim his maiden major title by one stroke from Fowler – the fourth first-time major winner in succession at Augusta.
His last-gasp error also cost him outright second as Fowler capped an inward 32 with a six-foot birdie putt at the last that lifted him to 14 under and into the clubhouse lead, but Reed knocked in a vital par putt at 17 and held his nerve to hole the winning putt from three feet at the last.
Jon Rahm closed with a 69 to complete the top four, while McIlroy slipped into a share of fifth on nine under after carding a disappointing 74 having started the round with high hopes of overturning the three-shot deficit Reed held overnight.
Reed, understandably, looked nervous as he took to the tee alongside Ryder Cup rival McIlroy in the final pairing of the tournament, and after pulling his opening drive close to a tree, he scrapped his way to a bogey.
He missed out on birdie at the second, but he settled his nerves with a good putt for a three at the third before bouncing back from a bogey at six with a stunning second to within inches of the cup at the seventh.
With Spieth on the up and Fowler beginning his run, Reed opened the door for the chasing pack with another bogey at the 11th, but his response was again immediate as he drained a perfect putt from beyond the pin at the 12th.
A glance at the leaderboard would have alerted him that he no longer held the outright lead as he made his way down the 14th after getting a good break at 13, when his second plugged in the bank and avoided Rae’s Creek.
But he was soon back on top with a birdie at 14, and after missing out on another at 15, he safely negotiated the final three holes in par, with impressive saves at 17 and 18 securing a narrow victory ahead of Fowler.
Spieth appeared on course to break several records after he ignited his sensational challenge from the outset with birdies at the first two holes, and he picked up further shots at the fifth, eighth and nine to race to the turn in 31.
And, with the final pair faltering four groups behind, Spieth defied his final-round horrors of the last two years at the 12th, finding dry land at the first attempt and then rolling in another birdie putt from the rear fringe.
He just missed out on an eagle at 13, and he did well to two-putt from 50 feet down the slope for another birdie at 15 before nailing another chance from 20 feet at 16 to jump into a share of the lead when Reed missed out on birdie at 13.
But after shaving the hole for birdie at 17, Spieth made a huge error off the tee at the last as his drive failed to penetrate the corridor in between the tree branches and failed to reach the fairway.
The 2015 champion managed to advance his second to within sight of the green and pitched to six feet, but the par putt veered wide of the target just as Reed was making birdie at 15 to re-establish a two-shot advantage.
Fowler was one over through eight holes until creeping back into the hunt with birdies at eight and nine, and he suddenly became a big factor in the run-in when he picked up further shots at 12, 13 and 15.
He was unable to improve his score over the next two holes, but he heaped more pressure on Reed when he converted a nice approach to six feet at the last to post a valiant 67 and claim his third runner-up finish in a major.
Rahm added his name into the mix when he got to within two of the lead after his fifth birdie of the day at the 14th, but his second to 15 came up short and rolled back into the water and the resulting bogey left him with too much ground to make up.
McIlroy’s confidence took a knock with his very first shot of the day as he skied his drive way right and deep into the trees, although he managed to find a route through the limbs to the front-left bunker, from where he did well to save par.
But the first signs of putting frailties emerged at the second, where he was unable to take advantage of a stunning second to four feet, and that may have been on his mind when he bogeyed the next.
McIlroy bounced back with a brilliant birdie at the fourth, but his all-round game became ragged thereafter, missing another short putt for par at five before scrapping his way to a six at the long eighth.
He failed to take advantage of a perfect drive down the 11th as he slipped five off the lead and, although he stopped the rot with a birdie at 13, he again lipped out from four feet at the 14th which ended his hopes for another year.
McIlroy would end up sharing fifth with Cameron Smith, who tore up the back nine as he came home in 30 for a 66, while two-time champion Bubba Watson (69) and Henrik Stenson (70) also closed on nine under par.