Patrick Reed started the third round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional in Bethesda, Maryland, at 6-under and tied for the lead and he finished the third round at 6-under with a 2-shot lead. But it wasn’t a flat performance by any means; he had his ups and downs with three birdies and three bogeys:
“That was one of those days that we were able to grind it out. It played tough. It seemed to get firmer and faster as the day went on, and you know, it was just a lot of adjusting you had to do during the round. You know, we handled it pretty well and luckily we have the lead going into tomorrow.”
That’s good news for him because he is 3-for-3 when he has the 54-hole lead: his first win in 2013 at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro and the second and third in 2014 at the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs and the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami.
It was that stop in Miami that brought him his finest moment as a professional; a World Golf Championship is a very big deal. But it also brought him unintended controversy. In the joy of the moment and understandably triumphant, he explained his victory by saying that he believed himself to be a top-5 player. At least that’s the way it played amongst those who perceived his comment as hubris.
But as I wrote at the time, I think it was less hubris and more transformational principles. When you are trying to accomplish great things, you hold a vision of yourself in your mind until reality catches up to the vision.
Aside from those three victories, you could have argued that his comments were well within the boundaries of appropriate. He led his alma mater, tiny Augusta State to two NCAA Championships. And he became one of the best PGA Tour Monday qualifiers of all time by playing his way into six — six! — tournaments in 2012.
Monday qualifying is a very special kind of golf. You have as many as 156 of the best competitive golfers in the world vying for just 4 spots into the tournament that week. With a field that big, the Tour just wants to get the entire field through their rounds. The courses aren’t set up easy, but they aren’t set up hard either. The Tour just wants to identify the four lowest scores and doesn’t much care what they are.
So when you get to the first tee, you are thinking birdie. You gotta make birdies. But you also have to be, not careful, but strategic enough not to make bogeys. In a 72-hole tournament, you can afford to make bogeys. In an 18-hole crapshoot, you can’t. So over time, you become a real knuckle dragger of intensity and intention. Kind of like a predator.
But after Miami, Reed’s trail went cold. Since that time he’s finished T52, T48, T35 and missed five cuts. Most of that was attributable to his and his wife, Justine’s, first child, a baby daughter born in late May. How could you have your mind on anything else, especially after such a satisfying win?
“After we played Doral, I was more focused on making sure Justine was all right and making sure the baby was fine. You know, family comes first, so I was more focusing on that. So when I was on the golf course, I wasn’t 110 percent focused on what I was doing.”
“I was still practicing hard. It’s just this game is, I believe, 50 percent mental as it is 50 percent, you know, physical. So it’s one of those things that you have to be completely into it and you know, I feel like now we’re playing some solid golf and I’m just kind of putting things [back] together.
“You know, there’s a lot of spurts throughout after we had the baby of me playing well. It’s just, you know, there was just one thing missing. I do three of the four parts [full swing, short game, putting and mental game] really well and just one was kind of lacking. I feel like now we’ve got it all wrapped around and we’re ready to go.”
So now that his world is settled a little, he plans to use the same mindset that allowed him to finish off those 54-hole leads:
“Just staying patient. You can’t get ahead of yourself. If you think about having the lead or if you think about what you’re going to do coming down 18, you’re going to lose focus on the rest of the holes. I’m just going to go on the same mind-set I had all week and basically always; one shot at a time.”
“I just stuck to my game plan, played a little conservative. Mainly don’t think ahead and I just focus on what I’m doing and right now, getting good speeds on the green and focus on the first tee shot and just take it from there.”
He was so good at doing that that he led the tournament in the proximity to the hole stat. That comes from always thinking birdie. But aside from that, he wasn’t really thinking:
“I didn’t even know I was first in that category. I mean, I spent most of the time in the rough. I’m shocked I’m first in that category. I just feel like I’m in a good pattern with my golf swing. I’m confident in what we’re doing and what we’re working on in the swing, and I feel like I’m really staying in the moment and not getting ahead of myself and not moving too fast”
“I have a tendency of getting too quick, and just quickly pulling a club, and I feel like now we’re just kind of stepping back, taking a couple extra seconds and making sure we have the right decision and pulling the trigger.”
One of the other things he did on Saturday is that he became very aggressive with his irons because the greens were firming up and not holding as well:
“I’m that guy that likes to stay between a 75 and 85 percent swing, and I think the last four holes we went at it a full hundred percent; clubbed down one, just to try to get some height and try to get some spin on it. On the last I only had 109 yards and pulled out my 61 degree wedge [geez!] and swung as hard as I could at that. That thing still ended up past where it landed. Just things to remember for tomorrow.”
Reed’s admiration for Tiger Woods came to light during his ascent into the golfing world’s attention and he was asked how much it would mean to him for the tournament’s host to present him with the winning trophy:
“I mean, honestly, that’s really the last thing on my mind. You know, the first thing on my mind is go home and see how my little baby girl is doing and then just get ready for tomorrow. If I start getting ahead of myself, then that’s when you’re going to make careless errors and that’s when that lead starts to shrink. I’m going to just focus on having a good night’s sleep, good warm up and that first tee shot.”
Reed did note that one of the things he admires about Tiger is his confidence. As I have noted many times, Tiger isn’t just confident, he is being confident at his core. It’s who he is. And Reed noted that too:
“I mean, every time he walks, every time he speaks or anything he does on the golf course, he looks like he’s confident in himself and he works hard at it.”
But listening to Reed’s plan for Sunday, he clearly has his own grasp on being confident:
“I’m just going into it as if it’s a Monday qualifier and just go in and I have to take it hole-by-hole. You know, 18 holes, two-shot lead, that’s not a lot. Anybody can make that up. Just one of those things, you have to have the right mindset going into tomorrow and keep the foot down and keep going.”
Given that he’s pretty much a master at this Monday qualifying thing, you gotta like his chances.