5 Things: Reed leads Humana; Zach close; more

Patrick Reed during the first round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif.

Patrick Reed during the first round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif.

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – True to form, 19 players shot 66 or better in the first round of the Humana Challenge. As usual, it’s go low or go home.

Patrick Reed led the way with a 9-under 63 at the PGA West Palmer Private Course. He leads by one stroke over the quartet of Ryan Palmer (Palmer Course), Charley Hoffman (La Quinta CC) and Justin Hicks and Daniel Summerhays (both at PGA West Nicklaus Private Course).

Little wonder Palmer said that someone needs to get to 20-24 under par to win.

Here are 5 Things to Know after the opening day of the Humana track meet:

• • •

1. REED IN THE LEAD: Patrick Reed, former Augusta State star, used the word “confidence” at least a half dozen times in his news conference after making nine birdies. Among other things, he said he is more confident than ever. Finally, someone asked whether confidence is the most important part of golf.

“It is,” said Reed, who won the Wyndham Championship and finished 35th in earnings in 2013, his first full season on the PGA Tour. “If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, then all your flaws and stuff come out.

“Look at Tiger (Woods), for example. He’s very confident. Every shot he hits, you can just see it – and not only in his eyes, but also his demeanor.”

Thursday, the 23-year-old Reed hit 14 greens in regulation and took only 25 putts. He overcame some errant driving on his first nine and started making putts in the 10- to 20-foot range. When he finished, he had holed 132 feet of putts.

• • •

2. JOHNSON CONTINUES TO ROLL: Zach Johnson remains on fire. He has won two of his last six Tour starts (not counting an unofficial victory at Woods’ short-field event in December) and has nine top 10s in his last 12 starts.

What’s more, since he joined the Tour in 2004, only Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have more Tour victories than Johnson’s 12.

“That means I’m doing something right,” Johnson said. “It means I have a great team and vision and I’m never content. I want to improve.”

Thus, it should surprise no one that Johnson hit all 14 fairways in shooting 65 at La Quinta, good for a tie for sixth.

He attributes his strong run since last summer to a number of factors. He fixed his technique after it got off during the Florida swing last spring. He figures his problems stemmed from an attempt to hit the ball higher and farther.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel good with the way I prepare, my schedule, my warmups and staying in a competitive mind frame.”

Johnson has developed into one of the game’s best wedge players. He practices on a wedge range at his home course on St. Simons Island, Ga., the targets separated by 10-yard intervals from 30 to 100 yards. It’s similar to the wedge range his coach Mike Bender set up for him in the Orlando area before Johnson won the 2007 Masters, where he laid up on all par 5s.

“I don’t think I’ve always been a great wedge player,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked a lot on dialing in yardages and trajectory.”

• • •

3. WI STRONG AFTER SURGERY, LAYOFF: Charlie Wi said he didn’t touch a club after undergoing surgery in late October to repair a torn ligament on his right ring finger. He didn’t do much of anything, actually, besides hang out with his family.

“It’s hard killing the whole day when you don’t do anything,” he said, smiling.

Wi suffered what he originally thought was a jammed finger when he slipped and fell while playing golf in early October. He tied for 12th at the Frys.com Open a few days later, but then the finger pain worsened. That ended his 2013 schedule, during which he had but one top-10 finish after placing 45th in earnings in 2012.

He tied for 38th last week at the Sony Open in his first event back, then shot 65 Thursday in his Humana first round at the Palmer Course despite bogeying the first hole and missing the first three greens in regulation. A stiffed 7-iron on No. 4 settled him down and launched the low round that has him tied for sixth, two shots off Reed’s lead.

Wi said he clearly did not see that score coming after his poor, nervous start. Or when he arrived at the course after having brief trouble getting past security, beefed up because of former President Bill Clinton’s attendance.

“I’m glad I got a chance to play today,” Wi said. “But, yeah, I think (the security is) so over-the-top.”

He’s thankful for the break, too, because he now feels fresh after resting his body for almost two months.

• • •

4. HIGH NUMBERS, LOW SPIRITS: Robert Garrigus was 6 under par through 14 holes and in the sole lead, but then he made consecutive double bogeys en route to 70 at La Quinta. He’s seven shots behind, in a tie for 80th.

Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy also made a couple of consecutive high numbers as his struggles continued. The Australian, who hasn’t finished better than 32nd in his last 15 PGA Tour starts, opened with a 74 that included quadruple and double bogeys on consecutive holes (Nos. 17-18 on Nicklaus Course).

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: Boo Weekley withdrew because of an injured knee. He was 3 over par through eight holes. . . . Nine-time Tour winner Stuart Appleby finished 133rd in 2013 earnings and hasn’t placed better than 16th since June. It follows that he said this after an opening 66 here on the Palmer Course: “It’s just nice to write down a birdie on the card.” . . . Matt Every said he struggled with the driver and “missed a few short (putts)” in the middle of the round. But he shot 65 at the Nicklaus Private Course.

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