Patrick Reed was downright confident after Sunday’s victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. After three victories in less than a year, the 23-year-old has every right to feel on top of the world.
Reed fired an even-par 72 to clear Bubba Watson and Jamie Donaldson by a stroke and earn his second PGA Tour victory of the 2014 season, and became the youngest WGC winner in the process.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Sunday at Trump National Doral:
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1. REED ROLLING: Patrick Reed made it a bit exciting down the stretch Sunday, but the Augusta State product did just enough to secure the biggest victory of his young career.
Reed led by as many as four shots early in the round, picking up three birdies in his opening four holes while the likes of Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson all fell back and left Reed with some significant breathing room.
But a sloppy bogey at No. 14, where he missed a 3-footer to save par, and then a closing bogey gave Jamie Donaldson and Bubba Watson some hope.
Donaldson had a chance to get into the clubhouse at 4 under, but missed a 12-footer to save par on 18 – allowing Reed to play 18 conservatively.
“Just staying patient; I was hitting ball so good this week, it felt like, and my putting just was outstanding,” Reed told NBC, adding that the blade took the pressure off him tee to green. “Around a golf course like this you have to be confident, and I feel like I’ve done that really well.”
Reed becomes only the fifth player to have three or more PGA Tour victories before turning 24, joining Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. That fact isn’t lost on Reed, who was confident in his post-round interview on NBC.
“I’m one of the top five players in the world. To come out in a field like this and go wire to wire, I feel like I’ve proven myself,” said Reed.
Reed’s win propels him to third in the FedEx Cup standings and the Tour says it projects him into the top 20 of the OWGR.
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2. BACKING UP: Tiger Woods entered the final round only three shots back of Reed after a tournament-best, 6-under 66 Saturday.
He ended Sunday’s round nine shots back, and with plenty of questions about his health.
Woods fired a 6-over 78 behind six bogeys and no birdies – the first time he didn’t have a birdie in the final round of a PGA Tour tournament – and seemed to be worse for wear, struggling with his back from the opening hole. But he said that it was his second shot on No. 6 that caused his back to flare up.
“It was just a simple 8-iron. Should be no problem, but it was a problem,” said Woods.
On multiple occasions he grimaced to even put the ball in the ground or pick up the ball out of the hole. Hunter Mahan’s caddie, John Wood, picked up the ball out of the hole for him on the par-4 11th.
Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic last week because of back spasms. Sunday at Doral he again seemed to be headed that way, as he couldn’t get any putts to drop early and that seemed to be a product of the pain. But he stuck it out, even pounding a 341-yard drive on No. 12.
Asked whether he considered withdrawing at any point, he offered one word: “No.”
Woods’ next scheduled tournament is the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 20, a tournament he won in 2013. Woods said that he will receive treatment and will “assess” his health before the start at Bay Hill.
“It’ll be nice to take this week off and get ready for Bay Hill,” said Woods.
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3. WATSON, DONALDSON GET CLOSE: Closing with a bogey-free 68, Bubba Watson charged to second – and kept Patrick Reed honest, to a degree. Only Jonas Blixt’s 66 surpassed him Sunday, while Thongchai Jaidee matched the number.
Watson improved during the week, opening with a 1-over 73 and following that with a pair of 72 Friday and Saturday in earning his fifth top-10 finish this season – in seven starts, with no finish worse than T-31. Said his caddie, Ted Scott, via his Twitter account
@jtedscott: “Wow!! 68 on the Monster today by @bubbawatson Course is hard, even with light winds. Good attitude and fighting all week. Proud of him”
Jamie Donaldson, meanwhile, had two bogeys during his 70. The latter came on the 18th to drop him from a share of second, however, and cost him his first sub-70 round of the week. It also allowed Reed to play the 18th conservatively with a two-shot cushion.
The Welshman finished T-8 at the WGC-HSBC Champions earlier this season and entered the week sixth in Race to Dubai points, with a T-2 at the European and Sunshine tour’s co-sanctioned Nedbank Golf Challenge his best finish of the season.
Donaldson also became eligible for special temporary membership, the PGA Tour said, as he has earned 378 non-member points in the FedEx Cup standings.
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4. STARS END WITH TROUBLE: Dustin Johnson, who started the week second in FedEx Cup points, finished on a down note like Donaldson – a double bogey at the 18th dropping him to T-4 at even par. Johnson has five top-10 finishes in six starts.
Rory McIlroy’s 2-under 70 to start the week apparently was beginner’s luck at Doral, as he closed with a bogey at the last to cap rounds of 74-75-74 for a T-25 finish at 5 over – the same mark on which reigning Masters champion Adam Scott landed after a 73 Sunday. Scott started hot with birdies at Nos. 1 and 3, but wouldn’t birdie again and took double bogey at No. 13 and bogey on No. 18.
Phil Mickelson after his third-round 69, you ask? Like McIlroy, his other rounds were 74, 75 and 74 as he finished T-16 at 4 over. Mickelson made the turn at even par for the day before sliding with bogeys at Nos. 10, 15 and 18 against a birdie at No. 16.
That ought to keep the reputation of the Blue Monster’s finishing hole intact.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: With 318 balls hit into the water this week, this year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship far eclipsed its previous high of 220 in 2004. . . . Of the 14 players who have won the 17 Tour events so far this season, nine have been younger than 30. . . . A T-25 finish keeps Jimmy Walker atop the FedEx Cup points list, 538 points ahead of Dustin Johnson. . . . In 10 out of 15 Cadillac Championships, the winner had at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. . . . Sergio Garcia got under 70 for the first time on the renovated Doral track with a 69 to rise to T-16 at 4 over; he posted afterward on his Facebook page, “Great to finish the week with an under par round and leave with happy thoughts. My dinner with my friend Luke Donald must have worked last night!”. . . . Jordan Spieth also broke 70 for the first time this week as his 69 Sunday bumped him up to T-34 at 6 over; he said later via his Twitter account, @JordanSpieth: “Great momentum heading to Tampa next week! Had a good time today paired with @RickieFowlerPGA maybe next time we’ll be later on Sunday haha.” . . . Jonas Blixt shot 66 Sunday to tie Woods’ Saturday effort for the best round of the week; Blixt finished T-16 at 4 over. . . . Another Saturday mark matched: The field managed just nine rounds under 70 Sunday; there were seven Thursday and none Friday.
– Bill Zimmerman contributed