Humana Challenge now Reed's tournament to lose

Patrick Reed during the third round of the Humana Challenge. Reed enters the final round with a seven-shot lead after three consecutive rounds of 63.

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LA QUINTA, Calif. –– The Humana Challenge has been blessed by perfect weather and conditions. Then Patrick Reed came along and provided almost perfect scores.

63-63-63.

Looks like a Canadian weather forecast for July. Or the scores of a 9-handicap after 13 holes.

The 23-year-old, in his second full PGA Tour season, has figured something out and is putting like Steve Stricker on a good week. Now, he’s stuck on 63.

“It kind of seemed like deja vu all over again,” Reed said, sounding like Yogi Berra. “I felt just as confident as I did the last two days and the putter is still working. . . . (It) almost seems like I’m in a putting coma. The hole seems huge; it almost feels like I can’t miss.”

He won’t need another 63 Sunday at the PGA West Palmer Private Course to win because he leads by seven strokes over Charley Hoffman and Brendon Todd and by eight over James Driscoll.

Is the tournament over? No, because there are 18 holes left and bizarre things can happen in golf. But you’ll have to search far and wide to find someone who will bet against him.

“It’s his tournament, there’s no question,” Hoffman said.

“It would be very, very tough (for anyone to catch him),” said Matt Jones, 10 back. “He would have to have a bad day (Sunday).”

A very bad day.

For Reed not to win, he’d probably have to oversleep by a couple of hours or sprain his back tying his shoes or get blindsided in his courtesy car or pull a Tin Cup. Food poisoning probably wouldn’t even do it.

There are many water hazards on the Palmer Course. And maybe Hoffman was just planting a seed when he said, “There’s plenty of trouble on this golf course, there’s plenty of water, to hit it in coming down the stretch.”

So far, though, Reed has made history by making putt after putt, not by rinsing shots. And he’d make more history if he somehow blew this one after breaking the Tour's 54-hole record for most shots under par (27 under) by two shots – his 189, though, was one shot shy of the lowest 54-hole score (188), set by Stricker at the 2010 John Deere Classic.

To give you an idea of how good Reed’s score is, consider this: The guys tied for second are 20 under, and 20 under would have won outright or tied for first at every tournament on Tour last year except three – the Humana, the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship.

“I know these golf courses aren’t Augusta National, but you still have to hit shots and make putts,” said Zach Johnson, winner of two of his last six Tour starts and 12 shots back entering Sunday.

The numbers are strongly on Reed’s side. No player has ever lost a seven-shot lead with 18 holes left. The largest blown margin is six shots, dubiously achieved by six players, most recently by Spencer Levin at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

On the other hand, the largest come-from-behind win in Tour history is 10 shots by Paul Lawrie at the 1999 Open Championship. But that was at Carnoustie and a wild Frenchman was involved. This is not Carnoustie and Reed is not French.

It would be more likely that Reed sets the Tour record for most strokes under par for 72 holes. Stricker has that, going 33 under here when this event was 90 holes in 2009. Stricker made 34 birdies in those first 72 holes that year, nine more than Reed has so far.

“I can’t get ahead of myself,” said the former Augusta State star, the first Tour player to open with three rounds of 63 or better. “I have to take it hour by hour and see what happens.”

Not even shot by shot. Hour by hour.

And he doesn’t sound like a guy who plans to go into protective mode.

“I’m going to treat (Sunday) as if it’s a Monday qualifier,” said Reed, who succeeded in six of eight Monday qualifiers on Tour in 2012. “An 18-hole shootout, everybody’s tied at even par and hopefully I can go out and do the same thing I’ve done the past three days.”

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