LA QUINTA, Calif. – The scoring title was never in doubt, nor was Patrick Reed’s victory. Starting with a seven-shot lead as many tried to rein him in, Reed was not his sharpest – but a 1-under 71 was enough to win his second tournament of his young professional career.
Coming into Sunday, Reed had recorded only two bogeys – neither was on the Palmer Private – Reed gave some life to the pursuers with four bogeys Sunday. He covered those missteps with five birdies to finish at 28 under.
Ryan Palmer finished second at 26 under, followed by Zach Johnson (10-under 62) and Justin Leonard at 25 under and tied for third.
Johnson’s T-3 was his third consecutive top 10 in the 2014 season as he has generated $1,589,600 during the month of January.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Sunday’s final round in southern California:
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1. IT WASN’T PRETTY: Patrick Reed learned what playing with the lead is like – and it’s not easy. Where he was unbeatable in the first three rounds with consecutive 63s, Reed found fairway bunkers and needed more saves Sunday than he needed all week.
The Texas native decided that he could play for pars during the final three holes, as it was unlikely he could be caught – the benefit of a seven-shot lead at the start of the day and a critical birdie on No. 15.
“To birdie 15 to know I sealed it then, it felt comfortable, it felt great,” Reed said. “I was able it play the last three holes just for par rather than trying to make birdies or trying to make something happen.”
Reed had troubles off the tee and his putter, which had been a magic wand, lost its charm on Sunday. The first three rounds, Reed needed on average only 25 putts; he recorded 32 Sunday – seven more than his average and ended 78th in strokes gained putting for the week.
“My speed was off today,” Reed said. “I left a lot of putts short. It seemed like the first three days the ball was just trickling over the front edge, and today it seemed like it came to a screeching halt just short. In that aspect it was tougher.”
Now Reed goes into uncharted territory. His first win, with his wife on the bag, proved he belonged and led to the purchase of a new home and two new cars.
Now with a baby girl on the way, his wife is on the sidelines and her brother is on the bag. This win has to validate the first and could open the floodgates.
“The work that we have done these past two and a half, three years, I mean with my new swing coach, Kevin Kirk on all that . . . that’s been the real difference.”
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2. NEEDED AN EAGLE AND SOME LUCK: Ryan Palmer made seven birdies and no bogeys in trying to run down Patrick Reed, but as he stood on the 18th tee he knew he need to do just a little more and after a solid tee shot luck came his way.
His second shot into the par-5 18th was left of the hole and just right of a water hazard that would have ended Palmer’s chances of victory. But a good bounce – and then what Palmer would call an “unbelievable putt” from above the hole – placed some pressure on Reed during the last.
“There was two tournaments today; there’s Patrick trying to win it and trying to win second place,” Palmer said of his approach. “That was our goal. When we started the day we were three back, not 10 back. That’s the way we looked at it.”
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3. IT’S BEEN A WHILE: Harrison Frazar was playing golf Sunday – the first Sunday that Frazar has played on Tour since shooting a 1-over 71 at the RBC Canadian Open on July 29, 2012.
Doing the quick math, that’s more than 17 months since the 2011 FedEx St. Jude Classic winner has made a check on the PGA Tour.
The reason is simple: He was injured. The exact nature of the injury is a little more difficult to explain.
“It’s a long funny story,” Frazer said after shooting a 2-under 70 to finish T-58. “It’s basically a rib. Where the 11th rib is connecting to the spine, the cartilage was damaged, so the rib was moving but it was shooting pain down into the hip, and it was shooting pain into the back.”
Trying to locate the pain took months because the back and the hip were in distress. Eventually the rib was diagnosed and treatment consisted of rhizotomy and stem-cell injections.
When Frazer returned to the PGA Tour in Las Vegas, the rib still bothered him. It continued to be an issue during McGladrey and Mayakoba last year.
But this week, pain was not an issue as Frazar was able to record four rounds under par for the first time since the 2012 Sony (when he finished T-2).
“Every day that I go about and do my deal and hit shots and I don’t feel that pain, then I feel like I let go just a little bit more, and I’m not guarding quite as much, and it starts to feel better,” Frazer said. “But that’s a process. If I never feel that pain again, I’ll be a happy man.”
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4. CAPTAIN NO MORE: It was two years ago that Davis Love III was starting on an adventure that would end badly in the dusk of a Chicago fall.
The experience of being Ryder Cup captain was exciting, but also took away from his game, a game that at its zenith was one of the best in the world.
Now Love, after finishing off his obligations as Ryder Cup captain and Presidents Cup assistant captain to Fred Couples, is focusing on his badly neglected game – and is starting to see signs of progress. He finished T-58 at the Humana.
“I’m ready to play, and everybody asks me about the Champions Tour,” said Love, who turns 50 in April. “I just feel like I’ve got a restart, like I’m fresh and ready to go. I want to focus on this Tour for this year and see if I can move up.”
Love’s schedule is fluid. He isn’t in three of the four majors, and when the Arnold Palmer Invitational comes around Love will be hoping for a spot.
But for now Love hopes to build on a made cut and a game he feels is good enough to do some damage in 2014.
“Physically, I hit the ball better on the range than I do on the course,” Love said of his game. “I putt good some days and bad some days. It’s just all mental. I need to be a little bit better prepared. I won’t tell you that I was ready to go this week, coming out of the winter. But by the time I get a couple weeks in, I’ll be ready to go, and I think I can compete.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Desert golf can produce some funny results; ask Billy Horschel, who went a nine-hole stretch at a 7-under clip without a par and recorded bogey-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey-eagle-birdie. . . . Ken Duke recorded an ace at the 17th hole with a wedge from 110 yards; it was his second career hole-in-one . . . Brian Stuard recorded his third consecutive top-10 finish in 2014 with a final round 7-under 65 that was good enough for fifth.