Insider: Reid revives career by earning card at qualifying school

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Mike Reid will be fully exempt on the Champions Tour in 2014 after an impressive q-school showing.

Sometimes it’s difficult on the Champions Tour to be patient. It’s a place where fast starts and error-free golf aren’t necessarily a luxury. A three-round tournament often makes those things mandatory.

Looking back, Mike Reid and his son/caddie, Daniel, uncovered a bit of truth about Reid’s career on the Champions Tour. Reid hopes to put the information to good use when he returns fully exempt in 2014.

Reid claimed one of five exemptions at last week’s National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Scottsdale. He posted four rounds in the 60s to tie Jim Rutledge for second place behind medalist Wes Short Jr.

Reid, 59, made seven appearances this year on the Champions Tour due to his limited status from the combined career money list. All that changed last week and, once again, he has revived his career.

“Unexpected, I think, to be honest,” Reid said. “I’m really grateful to have another crack at it, especially at my age. The odds of making it, five out of more than 70, there isn’t room for mistakes. You can’t just play good. You’ve got to play a little bit better than good to make it through. There’s pretty good competition out there everywhere you look.”

Reid approached the Qualifying Tournament with little in the way of expectations but with a purpose. It paid off and now he’s looking to build on that.

“What I’d like to do is take, in some measure, the knowledge that I gained,” Reid said. “I was really prepared. I can’t think of any tournament in my recent past that I was more prepared for. When I sent in my entry, I wrote down the number of days and weeks I had to get ready - mentally, physically, spiritually. In the weeks that I’m out there, the goal is to be ready to play. I get a lot of joy in preparation, knowing on the first tee on the first day that you’ve put yourself in a position to score well.

“I want to approach this year not worrying much about expectations. Those take care of themselves, those sorts of goals are always pushing you. The joy is in the preparing, the working and the playing. At my age, I didn’t know if I would have a new lease on life. I think I will approach this year with just a little bit more focus knowing I’m not going to be out here much longer. With my game and my body I don’t know what I have left. I will give it all I have.”

Reid has won twice on the Champions Tour and both were majors. In 2005, he rallied to win the Senior PGA Championship but did not win again until 2009 at the JELD-WEN Tradition. Again, he rallied, this time with a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff with John Cook. Reid made birdie on the first playoff hole for the title. Major championships on the Champions Tour are contested over 72 holes.

The victory at The Tradition had plenty of significance. Reid joined a small group of players, including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, whose first two wins on the Champions Tour came in major championships. It also gave Reid another shot at the Champions Tour, just as his runner-up finish in Scottsdale has.

Reid described his victory at The Tradition an “11th hour reprieve.”

“Anytime you win it adds strength to the idea when the cosmic tumblers all fall into place you can compete at that level,” he said. “It’s a satisfying notion that can help with a great deal of confidence.

“That’s what (the Qualifying Tournament) has done for me. Maybe there is some gas in the tank, maybe I still can play.”

Reid’s son, Daniel, was also on the bag when Reid won the Tradition. Together, they formulated the game plan for TPC Scottsdale.

“Daniel made an interesting observation,” Reid said. “He said my best weeks have been in four-round events. We pondered the reasoning why that might be so.”

The conclusion was that Reid, in the typical 54-hole Champions Tour events, tended to be impatient. That’s easy to do on the Champions Tour.

“That put me out of my comfort zone a little bit,” Reid said. “I will try to be more diligent playing my game whatever the length of the tournament is, sticking to the plan and trying to execute that plan. For a guy like myself who pretty much hit it in the fairway, hit it on the green – a conservative player – created some anxiety that I just don’t need in my game.”

Yes, Reid is still Radar.

“Once in a while I live up to it,” he said of the nickname.

And he believes that returning to his natural instincts on a golf course is best for him.

“My son and I kind of made that deduction, that maybe that’s the reason why I haven’t been hitting as many fairways and greens in regulation,” Reid said. “During the Qualifying Tournament, I noticed it was a relief almost with 5- or 6-iron in my hand to hit to the middle of the green. I realized I’ve been trying to knock the flag down on every shot and needed to return to the discipline of simply setting up the (birdie) chances by hitting more greens.

“I missed only 10 or 11 greens in regulation in 72 holes. If you’re setting up that many chances for birdies each day and if you’re putting reasonably well, you are going to put up enough birdies.”

That “rather conservative strategy,” in his words, produced 20 birdies and an eagle in 72 holes at the Qualifying tournament.

“I remarked (to Daniel) on the 18th green this feels like a win, to be able to get one of those five exempt spots,” Reid said.