Patrick Reed finishes strong for victory at The Northern Trust

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Reed finishes strong for victory at The Northern Trust

PGA Tour

Patrick Reed finishes strong for victory at The Northern Trust

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Two hours before the leaders teed off on Sunday at Liberty National Golf Club, there was already proof that low scores were out there. The sun was shining brilliantly over the Statue of Liberty, less than a half-mile away in New York harbor, and the breeze was only gently moving the flags above the first tee. Kevin Tway had posted an early 65, and Brooks Koepka, the world’s top-ranked player, was 5 under through his first six holes.

That’s not what Adam Hayes was hoping to see. Tough conditions tend to favor the most talented golfers, while courses where birdies can be made in bunches can allow for more potential winners. Hayes, who caddies for Jon Rahm, knows that his man is one of the most talented players on the planet. If he had his way, the wind would have blown as it did on Saturday, the fairways would have been like the asphalt on the Garden State Parkway and the putting surfaces would have baked until they turned a crusty brownish green.

While the wind was not a major factor in the final round of the Northern Trust, the course provided plenty of challenges to the 84 golfers who played it, including Rahm, the long shots Harold Varner III and Abraham Ancer and the overnight leader, Patrick Reed.

NORTHERN TRUST: Photo gallery | Leaderboard | Schedule, results

In the end, it was Reed, whose last tournament win came at the 2018 Masters, who outlasted the competition. His 2-under 69 was good enough for a one-shot triumph over Ancer at the first event of the PGA Tour’s 2019 FedEx Cup playoffs.

“It’s amazing, just to be back and to feel like I’ve been playing some solid golf and finally having it pay off,” Reed said. “To come out as a victory, it’s been a while.”

RELATED: Patrick Reed’s Inner Circle

Patrick Reed poses with the trophy after winning The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Course on Aug. 11, 2019. Photo: Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

The win moves Reed, 29, from 50th to second on the FedEx Cup point list and earned him $1,665,000.

Rahm, 24, started Sunday two shots behind Reed, but the Spaniard shot a bogey-free 33 to take a one-shot lead as the players headed to the back nine.

Through the first three rounds, Rahm was 7 under on holes 10 through 18, so he had reason to be confident that he could win his fourth PGA Tour event. While he made a bogey on the par-3 11th hole, he carded back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 to grab a two-shot lead.

Then, on the 153-yard, par-3 14th hole, Rahm made a bogey after his tee shot forced him to putt through the fringe on the left side of the green.

After walking 50 feet to the 15th tee box, his temper, which is his Achilles’ heel, showed. When his tee shot failed to cut to the right and landed in a fairway bunker on the left, he was visibly angered. “You can’t be serious!” he implored, echoing John McEnroe’s infamous 1981 meltdown at Wimbledon.

He continued to mutter to himself and berate his bad luck walking in the fairway. After his third shot flew into deep rough behind the green, leading to a second straight bogey, there was more chatter.

Meanwhile, Reed, playing one hole behind Rahm, calmly stuffed his approach shot on the 14th hole to 8 feet and made his birdie putt. He pumped his fist, the crowd roared and the momentum shifted.

Suddenly it was Reed, who has played on the last three Ryder Cup teams and who is trying to earn a spot on his third straight Presidents Cup team, who held a one-shot lead with four holes to play.

Varner, ranked No. 185 on the Official World Golf Ranking, played in front of both Reed and Rahm. He needed a good week in Jersey City because only the top 70 players on the FedEx Cup points list advance to next week’s BMW Championship in Chicago. Varner, a former East Carolina University star, began the week at No. 102.

Harold Varner III lines up his putt on the 2nd green during the final round of the 2019 Northern Trust at Liberty National. Photo: Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

With four holes to play, Varner had a chance to not only lock up a spot in the field at Medinah but also win his first PGA Tour event. Sitting at -14 and tied with Reed, his undoing turned out to be an inability to convert two putts on the closing holes. He missed an 8-foot birdie chance on the 16th and another 8-foot putt for birdie on the 17th.

Varner’s 68 left him tied for third with Rahm, who shot 69. It also vaulted Varner to 29th on the FedEx Cup points list.

Ancer, who struggled at times on the back nine, made birdies on 16 and 17 to reach 15 under. He made par on the 18th hole for a 69 left him in second place.

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