Reed leads National, aims for 4th Tour victory
BETHESDA, Md. –– Patrick Reed is back. He’s not top 5 in the world, something he said he felt like after he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March, but he’s back on top, leading after 54 holes of the Quicken Loans National.
And he has a chance to become No. 1 in one very important category: Most victories in the last calendar year.
The top-5 thing, of course, created something of a stir in golf circles. Some endorsed his confidence, others rolled their eyes. But the current No. 29 player in the world has a chance to create a bigger commotion Sunday at Congressional.
If he converts his third-round lead of two strokes into a win, he would be the only player with four PGA Tour victories in the last year. What’s more, he would advance his reputation as a tough closer, for he has won all three times he has led after 54 holes.
Why is he so good when in front entering Sunday?
“Just staying patient,” said Reed, who is at 6-under 207, two up on Tour winners Marc Leishman (73), Seung-Yul Noh (66) and Freddie Jacobson (71). “If you think about having the lead or if you think about what you’re going to do coming down 18, you’re going to lose focus on the rest of the holes. I’m just going on the same mindset I had all week and basically always–one shot at a time.”
It’s a cliche. It might sound boring, but it works. The creation of victory speeches should always come after one shoots the lowest score.
Since winning at Doral, the 23-year-old Reed has missed the cut in five of eight starts, with a best finish of T-35 at the U.S. Open. A drop-off is understandable, for Reed’s attention was diverted to something more important than golf. His wife Justine gave birth to daughter Windsor Wells on May 22.
“I was more focused on making sure Justine was all right and making sure the baby was fine,” he said of the golf lull. “So when I was on the golf course, I wasn’t 110 percent focused on what I was doing.”
That was then. This is now.
In the last few months, one part or another of Reed’s game would be off at tournaments. He hasn’t been able to put all elements together. Putting has been a recurring culprit. But he feels he’s complete again.
“I feel like now we’re got it all wrapped around and we’re ready to go,” Reed said. “I just feel like I’m in a good pattern with my golf swing. I’m confident in what we’re doing and what we’re working on in the swing.”
The swing clearly is working well. He’s on top of the scoreboard mainly because he leads the tournament in proximity to the hole on approach shots (averaging 27 feet).
That’s not only 7 feet better than next best. It’s something that surprises Reed considering he has missed 18 of 42 fairways for three days on a course with thick rough.
“I spent most of the time in the rough,” he said. “I’m shocked I’m first in that category.”
He’s probably not shocked the top-5 stuff was brought up again. It doesn’t seem to be his favorite topic. But when asked what player reaction, playful or otherwise, has been like since he made his comments in March, he did give a five-sentence answer.
“I haven’t had anything negative said from the guys out here,” Reed said. “They all believe in themselves that they are one of the top players. You have to. You can’t play this game with lack of confidence. So just one of those things that, you know, we’re all trying to strive for the same thing, and some guys get there and that’s all we’re trying to do.”
Asked later if any of the top-5 fallout bothered him, he said, “No, I mean, I’m fine. Doesn’t bother me.”
Leishman, one of the runners-up, conceded that Reed “created a little buzz” in Miami. But when asked his take, he added, “Good on him for thinking that.”
Clearly, and understandably, Reed would rather talk about his month-old baby.
Someone mentioned that he has four wins since August–the Wyndham, Humana and Cadillac events and then Windsor Wells. He played along.
“Hers,” he said, “is the major.”
After shooting 68 in the first round, the proud father said he couldn’t wait to get back to his rented house to hold her and see “if she wants to eat.”
When home in Texas, he and Justine take turns tending to the baby overnight. Fortunately for his job, the division of duties is different when they’re on Tour.
“Luckily on the road I’m getting full nights of sleep,” the leader said. “Justine and her mom are taking the night shifts, and they are allowing me to sleep so I can try to perform.”
You might say it’s working this week.