Reed seeks to end winless streak at site of Presidents Cup triumph
August 10, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Patrick Reed leads after 54 holes at THE NORTHERN TRUST
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Patrick Reed’s last Sunday at Liberty National was a little less stressful than what he’ll face this time.
Victory was assured two years ago, when Reed was part of a U.S. juggernaut that dominated the International Team in unprecedented fashion at the Presidents Cup. The home team almost ended the tournament a day early. It could celebrate Saturday evening, knowing it needed just a half-point in singles to retain the Cup.
Now Reed is on his own atop a tight leaderboard at THE NORTHERN TRUST. He shot 4-under 67 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs. There are nine players within four strokes of Reed, including past FedExCup champions Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Brandt Snedeker.
Reed, who is 14-under-par, has made just one bogey over 54 holes at a golf course that continues to grow progressively tougher after getting doused with rain before the tournament. On Saturday, Liberty National played over par for the first time all week (71.2).
He’ll be joined in the final group by Abraham Ancer, who won last year’s Australian Open but is seeking his first PGA TOUR victory. Snedeker and Jon Rahm are two shots back. Rose trails by three, while McIlroy is four behind.
Snedeker shot 63 on Saturday after teeing off 3 ½ hours ahead of the leaders. The winds strengthened and the course dried out as the day progressed.
Ancer is 67th in the FedExCup and 10th in the standings for the Presidents Cup’s International Team. He shot 68 on Saturday.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played,” he said. “Extremely tough conditions out there. The golf course firmed up a ton. It was definitely a different animal than the last two days.”
Few have hit the ball better than Reed this week. He’s third in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 18th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. He’s in the top 10 of fairways hit (33 of 42) and greens in regulation (39 of 54) as well.
His 67 on Saturday was the low round among the final 10 players to tee off Saturday. His strong ball-striking allowed him to conquer the conditions.
“From the fairway, you can attack (this golf course),” Reed said. “It's one of those things that you just have to be smart and play this golf course smart. You have to give yourself opportunities and I feel like I've been doing that this week.”
This is the seventh time Reed has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He’s won on four of the previous six occasions.
He hasn’t started Sunday with a lead since last year’s Masters. His triumph at Augusta National remains his most recent victory.
A win would help Reed extend two impressive streaks. He is 50th in the FedExCup, but a win would guarantee him a sixth consecutive start at the TOUR Championship. He’s also 17th in the Presidents Cup standings. He’s played on every U.S. international team since 2014.
Reed’s winless stretch reached rock bottom in the run-up to his title defense. He had a three-round stretch at THE PLAYERS and Valspar Championship where he shot 78-77-75.
His struggles were enough for him to take a three-week break after a missed cut at the PGA Championship. There was a 10-day stretch where he didn’t touch a club.
“I was able to sit down clearly think and talk through my team what we're doing, what's good, what's not, what we need to fix. From that point, we had a very clear picture and path to move on to,” Reed said. “Any time you can ease your mind and you have clear focus, you're able to go out there and execute and play better golf.”
He and his team decided that he was getting too technical. He plays his best when he’s trying to shape shots instead of thinking about his golf swing.
“The biggest thing for me was hit fairways and just allow my mind to get out of its way, go out and be who I am,” Reed said. “That's grind, and once I get it on the golf course, go play golf. See golf shots and hit golf shots.”
He’s made every cut since leaving Bethpage Black and has five consecutive top-25s, including a T5 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 10th-place finish at The Open. Those are his first top-10s since his first start of the season, the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
He was ranked 148th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green after the PGA. He’s now 81st in that statistic. He’s jumped from 125th to 88th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in that span, as well.
He also switched golf balls last Sunday – before the final round of the Wyndham Championship – and the move paid immediate dividends. He shot 63 thanks to a softer golf ball that flies higher.
“It’s just awesome to finally be in that position back again where I'm contending on Sunday and have a chance to win the golf tournament,” Reed said.