Reed walks the walk at Blue Monster
Sunday’s win at WGC Championship backs up his claim of being a top-five player
Patrick Reed waits in a bunker to play a shot on the 17th hole at Trump National Doral. Photograph: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
From his first shot on the practice range to his final stroke in a par 72, the man in red and black was dialed in on Sunday at the World Golf Championships in Doral.
Patrick Reed had decided to adopt Tiger Woods’ signature Sunday outfit after he took his first 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event, at last year’s Wyndham Championship.
“We were channeling Tiger,” said Reed’s wife, Justine, who was caddying for her husband when he held off Jordan Spieth in a play-off at the Wyndham, in Greensboro, to secure his first tour victory.
Dressed for success again when he took his second 54-hole lead, at the Humana Challenge in January, Reed, 23, kept a fast-finishing Ryan Palmer at bay to win by two.
He improved his record in red and black to 3-for-3 on Sunday, resting on his Saturday lead after warding off charges by major winner Bubba Watson (68) and Jamie Donaldson (70) on the reconstructed Blue Monster.
Reed finished at four under par, one stroke ahead of Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, and Donaldson, who has five victories to his name.
Woods, 38, three strokes behind Reed at the day’s start and playing in the group directly ahead of him, was never a factor. He had six bogeys and no birdies in a round of 78 to finish in a tie for 25th at five over with eight others, including Rory McIlroy (74) and Luke Donald (69), both former number one ranked players, and the world number two Adam Scott (73).
Woods said that while he was hitting out of a fairway bunker on the sixth hole, his back began to spasm, just as it had the previous Sunday at the Honda Classic when he hobbled off the course after 13 holes.
He acknowledged that playing in consecutive weeks was not what the chiropractor would have ordered, but what choice did he have? He wants to sharpen his game before the US Masters next month.
“Normally, things like this, you shut it down for a while and then get back up and get the strength and everything developed around it,” Woods said. “So it will be nice to take this week off.”
Reed’s wife has had to shut down her caddying career for a while because she is pregnant with the couple’s first child, a daughter, who is due at the end of May.
Being on the outside of the gallery ropes, removed from her husband’s decision-making process, is her definition of torture.
Her discomfort began during his warm-up, when he continued to hit balls, each one as pure as the one before, on the range long after she would have advised him to move on to the putting green.
She could barely stand to watch, pacing back and forth like an expectant father while waiting to watch her husband deliver his drive at the 10th hole, a tough par five.
“That complete loss of control is so wrenching,” said Justine Reed, for whom it is getting harder with each passing week to watch her brother, Kessler Karain, caddie for her husband.
If Reed is reluctant to change his clothing choice because he has had success wearing red and black on Sundays, why would he switch caddies after winning two events this year with Karain?
“I keep telling my brother he’s going to have to give up the bag after the baby’s born,” Reed said. “But in the back of my mind, I don’t want to mess up anything, because Patrick’s doing so well.”
With his wife at times reflexively holding her right hand up to stop foot traffic or tossing grass in the air to gauge the wind direction, Reed played the front nine Sunday in a two under 34.
His inclination is to go for every par five in two, so his wife was almost relieved when his 307-yard drive at the 10th found the right rough.
“It’s kind of good, because now he can’t go for it,” she said. Reed’s lead, which was four strokes after seven holes, shrank to two after he made a bogey on the 14th.
He deposited his tee shot at the 15th into a bunker, which surprised his wife not one whit. She started calling him Sandman last year because she was raking so many bunkers - by her estimate, more than 150 around the green alone.
All that practice paid off as Reed got up and down for par.
This was his first time playing the Blue Monster. It might have worked to his advantage that he had no memories of what the course used to be like.
McIlroy, whose average score in 20 competitive rounds on the course was 70.3 before a redesign by the architect Gil Hanse, said: “It’s frustrating because you feel like you should be doing so much better.
“I don’t know if it’s because you have memories of the course before, like going low, but the way it is now, it just doesn’t allow you to do that.”
After beating a field that included 49 of the top 50 golfers in the world, Reed said he considered himself a top-five player. It was a bold declaration, but for one week, at least, he produced the game to back it up.