It’s easy these days to lose track of how young some of the top players on the PGA Tour are. When Patrick Reed won last week at the opening event in the FedEx series, he became the ninth consecutive player in his twenties to pick up a FedEx series win.
Recently turned 26, Reed’s win at Barclays, his career fifth, is arguably his biggest. It naturally vaulted him to the top of the FedEx standings, it locked him in on the Ryder Cup team and, most importantly, it ended a drought of twenty months of very solid golf but no wins. Since his last playoff win over Jimmy Walker in Hawaii in 2015 Reed had posted fourteen Top 10’s and twenty-nine Top 25’s.
The series win restored him to the Top 10 in the World Golf Rankings (9th), a position he started in 2016. Some might remember Reed created a brief controversy and lingering reputation when after his WGC win at Doral in 2014 he described himself as, “I’m one of the top five players in the world.” At the time the official rankings left him fifteen shy of that status at 20th.
Then again Reed was no stranger to controversy and criticisms in a young golf career. On the plus side he was a wunderkind prep golfer growing up in Louisiana, leading his high school team to consecutive state titles and individual honors for himself. He won the Junior British Open in 2006 and was a three time AJGA All American.
On the negative side, he was dismissed prior to his sophomore year at the University of Georgia for what could politely be called “youthful indiscretions.” He resurfaced at Augusta State and immediately put that school on the NCAA map being the lead dog for consecutive Division I championships.
Early in 2015, already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Reed became the subject of a scathing tell all book accusing him a being a cheater, a thief and the most hated man on his college golf team at Georgia. The prevailing sentiment was Augusta State was the U turn he needed off the golf course if his prodigious talent on the course was to reach its potential.
Following the win on Long Island, you could sense, in his fourth season on Tour, the person was beginning to approach the player. Owning a three shot lead with three to play on Sunday, Reed made it interesting. A bogey at sixteen took it down to two and a lag putt left him seven feet for par at the 17th. He converted to maintain his advantage and needed the space on the final hole. A hooked drive into the hay, a risky eight iron to the greenside rough, a chip to eighteen feet and a two putt bogey gave him his one stroke win.
The same player who boasted of Top 5 standing at Doral was more introspective afterwards at Bethpage. “That’s been something that Kessler, Justine, my whole team, we’ve been talking about is Top-10’ing is great. Top-10’ing is great for making a living. But at the end of the day, every time we play golf tournaments, we don’t settle for Top 10s. We’re going out there to try to get a W and try to get hardware and try to get a trophy.”
Reed was one of two stars from The Barclays. The other was the Black course at Bethpage. The A.W. Tillinghast course, just a short distance from Brooklyn, was on full display over the four days of tournament action. When Hall of Fame player and CBS analyst Nick Faldo got his first look at the Black at its coming out party for the 2002 US Open he was effusive in his praise. “I’m amazed this has been sitting here 65 years unknown. It’s an absolute monster diamond, it’s a monster gem.”
Perhaps the greatest daily fee golf course in the US, the Black has long enjoyed the reputation of also being the hardest. Everyday golfers arriving for a round are greeted by a cigarette pack warning as they approach the first tee. “WARNING The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend for only highly skilled golfers.”
Now a four time stop for the PGA Tour the same caveat applies for the pros. For two US Opens in 2002 and 2009 the combination of design and nature made the 72 hole trek a war of attrition, with Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover the last men standing.
More benign in 2012 for the first Barclays edition, only six players on the final day broke 70, with Nick Watney the winner with a two under 69. In 2016, rounds in the sixties on Sunday rained down on the course for players not in the hunt for a win. But for those with a chance, the incoming nine was the Black at its best. Among the top five finishers at Barclays, only Sean O’Hair could turn in a round under par coming home.
Tiger Woods christened Bethpage in 2002 with a win wearing his Sunday red. In 2016, wearing the same color scheme as his idol, Patrick Reed may have anointed himself as legitimately now one of the best players in the world.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.