Northern Trust: Presidents Cup hopeful Patrick Reed takes solo lead

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Trust: Presidents Cup hopeful Patrick Reed takes solo lead

PGA Tour

Northern Trust: Presidents Cup hopeful Patrick Reed takes solo lead

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. — When a golfer shoots a bogey-free 66 in the opening round of a big event, the press wants to talk with him. But Tiger Woods imploded with a 75, Troy Merritt shot a 62 and Dustin Johnson carded a 63, so no one paid much attention to Patrick Reed on Thursday at the Northern Trust.

Friday’s news was dominated by Woods’ withdrawal and Jordan Spieth’s 64. Reed, 29, shot another 5-under 66. He talked with a few members of the media, but no one on the grounds of Liberty National Golf Club was buzzing about his chances of winning.

Then on Saturday, hole by hole, as some big names like Spieth, Johnson and Rory McIlroy struggled, Reed kept moving forward. Three birdies on the front nine put him into the lead. A 1-under 34 on the back nine gave him a 67 for the day, and now he’ll start Sunday with a lead at 14 under.

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Three months ago, a performance like this might not have seemed possible for Reed. He was grinding but not getting good results. He tied for 36th at the Masters, and then missed the cut at the Zurich Classic where he partnered with Patrick Cantlay. Then came a T-28 at the Wells Fargo Championship and a T-63 at the AT&T Byron Nelson, followed by a missed cut at the PGA Championship.

“Mentally and physically, I was kind of out of it,” Reed said after signing his card Saturday evening. “After Bethpage, I was going to play the following couple weeks, but I decided to shut it down. I took three weeks off and actually shut down my game for 10 days. I didn’t touch a golf club. I can’t tell you when the last time I did that, but it kind of got my body and my mind right.” 

Through three rounds at the Northern Trust, Reed ranks third in strokes gained off the tee, which achieves a goal he established in his downtime of improving his performance with the driver. 

Reed also tweaked his equipment recently.

“I was watching 9-irons release 30 feet, which is not good,” he said. “I went to a softer, higher-launching golf ball last Sunday. The next thing you know I shoot 7 under there and come here and shoot 5 (under), 5 and 4. It’s going in the right direction.”

Reed had been playing a tour-only version of Titleist Pro V1 (left dot), but now has a 2017 Pro V1 in his bag.

Reed needs a big week to help him achieve two goals, reaching the Tour Championship and getting a spot on the Presidents Cup team.

After entering the Northern Trust ranked No. 50 in FedEx Cup points, simply making the cut virtually assured Reed of finishing in the top 70 and thereby qualifying for next week’s BMW Championship. But only the top 30 players after next week move on to Atlanta. A strong showing at Liberty National will make getting to East Lake a lot easier. 

Reed, who has never hidden his love for representing the United States in team competitions, started the week ranked 17th on the Presidents Cup point list. He has played on the last two Presidents Cups teams and last three Ryder Cups teams, but only the top eight players after the Tour Championship automatically qualify to be members of Tiger Woods’ team that will compete at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December. There are only four captain’s picks to be handed out and as of this week, several big name players—like U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner—are also ranked worse than eighth.

A refreshed, rejuvenated Reed might be exactly what Tiger Woods wants to add to the Presidents Cup team. It’s definitely what competitors will have to deal with on Sunday.

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