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Reed's plan pays off with victory at THE NORTHERN TRUST

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JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 11: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with the winner's trophy after the final round of The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club on August 11, 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 11: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with the winner's trophy after the final round of The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club on August 11, 2019 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin

    Patrick Reed wins THE NORTHERN TRUST

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Patrick Reed couldn’t remember the last time he went 10 days without touching a golf club.

    When pressed for an answer, he jokingly replied, “1990.”

    That was the year he was born. It was difficult to do, but Reed needed to step away from the game this spring. He is known for being a passionate player, but he’d become lethargic on the course and frustrated with his results. His clubhead speed was down and the ball wasn’t flying where he anticipated.

    He took a three-week break from the TOUR, including that 10-day stretch where he didn’t touch a club, to try and regain the energy that made Captain America one of the TOUR’s most fiery competitors.

    Related: Final leaderboard | FedExCup standings | What's in Reed's bag?

    The plan paid off with Reed’s first PGA TOUR victory in 16 months. He came out on top during a final round Sunday that was a back-and-forth struggle between several players. His final-round 69 was enough for him to keep the one-stroke advantage that he started the day with.

    Reed finished at 16-under 268 at Liberty National Golf Club, one shot ahead of Abraham Ancer. With the win, Reed jumped from 50th to second in the FedExCup standings. He also re-insterted his name into the Presidents Cup conversation. Reed has qualified for the TOUR Championship and represented the United States in every year since 2014.

    His path back to the winner’s circle actually started with that break in May. His family vacationed in the Hamptons during his self-imposed hiatus. He was surrounded by some of the world’s best golf courses, but Reed happily filled his days playing with his two kids and spending time with his wife.

    Even the backyard of their rented manse had the perfect dimensions for a driving range: 310 yards by 50 yards of manicured grass. Reed stayed at the same house during last year’s U.S. Open, and the owner shaved a strip of short grass so that he could use the grounds as a practice facility. He had no desire to do the same this year, though.

    “I didn’t want to see the golf clubs,” he said. His enthusiasm quickly returned when he got back on the course. It helped that he eagled his first hole after his break, the first hole at National Golf Links of America. He hit driver to 6 feet.

    “I come back and I’m hitting the ball farther. I have a clear picture on what I’m trying to do and all of a sudden, I come out and I start hitting the ball where it’s supposed to go,” Reed said. “I’m starting to think clearly while I’m out there (on the course) and … the game starts turning around.”

    His fifth-place finish at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in June was his first top-10 on the PGA TOUR since October. Two starts later, he finished 10th at The Open Championship. Then he conquered Liberty National with a strong ball-striking performance this week. He finished in the top 10 of Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (2nd), fairways hit (T8), greens in regulation (T5).

    He’s now converted five of his seven 54-hole leads into victories. He got off to a shaky start Sunday, though. He immediately followed an opening birdie with back-to-back bogeys. He added another bogey on the short par-5 sixth hole. After the next hole, his caddie/brother-in-law, Kessler Karain, reminded him to just keep hitting greens instead of playing too aggressively. Reed made three birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way.

    He regained a one-stroke lead after his birdie at the short par-3 14th. Rahm had just three-putted the same hole and was on his way to a bogey at No. 15, as well. Those two miscues dropped him into a tie for third place with Harold Varner III.

    Reed gave another undercut fist pump after holing a 9-footer for par on 15. A perfect pitch on the drivable 16th left him with a tap-in for birdie to take a two-shot lead. Pars on the final two holes were enough to hold off Ancer, who birdied 17 to pull within a shot as they headed to the 18th tee.

    This was Reed’s first victory since his triumph at last year’s Masters. Some players struggle after their first major because they lose a little fire after winning their first major. Reed felt like his win at Augusta National had the opposite effect.

    “I almost felt like I pressed harder and worked harder and tried harder and therefore, it made me physically and mentally drained,” he said. “I kind of went the wrong direction and that's why I felt like I needed the break.”

    Reed’s winless streak hit its deepest depths in Florida, just as his Masters defense was fast approaching. There was a three-round stretch when he shot a final-round 78 at THE PLAYERS Championship, then fired 77-75 to miss the cut at the following week’s Valspar Championship. He was spotted working with swing instructor David Leadbetter on the range at that event, but he’s since resumed working with solely his longtime coach, Kevin Kirk.

    This was Reed’s seventh PGA TOUR win. The 29-year-old now owns a major, World Golf Championships and two FedExCup Playoffs events. He also won THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2016, when he finished a career-best fifth in the FedExCup. In two weeks, he’ll make his sixth consecutive appearance in the TOUR Championship.

    Now he’s trying to extend another streak. Reed has appeared on every U.S. team since 2014. Reed started the week ranked 17th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. He’s now 12th in the standings. The top eight after next week’s BMW Championship will earn automatic berths on the team that will travel to Royal Melbourne in December.

    Reed would need to win next week as well to qualify for the team. At worst, he’s placed himself in the running for one of the four captain’s picks. Those will be announced after the World Golf Championship-HSBC Champions.

    The Presidents Cup was ever-present as Reed competed at Liberty National. The view of the Statue of Liberty stoked the flames of a player who enjoys the moniker of Captain America. Liberty National was the site of the last Presidents Cup, the United States’ thrashing of an overmatched International side. And Reed held off a potential Presidents Cup foe in Mexico’s Ancer. They were paired together in Sunday’s final group.

    “The biggest thing for me was … to just focus on the golf I'm playing because at the end of the day, if you play good golf, that all takes care of itself,” Reed said.

    Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.

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