Reed looking good in last tune-up before Ryder Cup

By Jason SobelSeptember 11, 2014, 10:17 pm

ATLANTA – When it comes to the impending Ryder Cup, everybody wearing red, white and blue is going to be scrutinized as if they’re under the searing glare of a microscope lens.

The captain, Tom Watson. His three captain’s picks. Jim Furyk, who played so poorly two years ago. Phil Mickelson, who has played so poorly lately. Veterans who have endured a losing culture. Rookies who shoulder the load of inexperience.

Perhaps no member of the team, however, will be as closely analyzed as Patrick Reed.

You know … Mr. “Top Five” himself.

Reed already carries a stigma of cockiness based largely on comments made after winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship six months ago. That brashness not only puts a target on his back for the European players, it potentially offers up a conspicuous scapegoat for American supporters.

In fact, entering this week he was already the clubhouse leader in preconceived notions.

Two weeks ago, he was two strokes off the Deutsche Bank Championship lead through 36 holes, only to post a third-round 82 and miss the secondary cut. Last week, he opened with a 77 at the BMW Championship and played catch-up, finishing T-53.

Not so suddenly, the alarms sounded.

Even before Reed had a chance to get to Gleneagles, even before he could recover and find his form, he was being whispered about – by supporters, not teammates – as a potentially weak link for the U.S. squad.

Tour Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Which is why Thursday must have felt so good for him.

Quickly rounding back into form after two disappointing weeks, Reed opened with a 3-under 67 at the Tour Championship, leaving him just one stroke behind co-leaders Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel.

“After those two rounds,” he said of the 82 in Boston and 77 in Denver, “I went back, I talked to my coach and stuff, and I talked to him on what do I need to do just to conserve energy. Because both of those I woke up, I was tired and I'm just worn out. This is our seventh week in a row. I've never played seven straight.

“So there were some things that he helped me with on just different ways to attack our game plan and just preparation to keep our energy level up coming into tournament days.”

That’s not to suggest he was overly worried about finding his game.

Despite Watson’s consistent plea that he wants players who are “in form” entering the upcoming proceedings, Reed doesn’t believe that much he does during these FedEx Cup playoffs will translate into his performance at the Ryder Cup in two weeks.

“No, not at all,” he answered. “I want to go home after this event and I'm not going to touch a golf club for three days, and then it will be the best thing for me because after that, whenever I do pick up the clubs, my energy is going to be back up and I'm going to be able to sustain and be ready to go.”

Even so, climbing the leaderboard on a humid Atlanta afternoon certainly won’t hurt his confidence level at all. Since his victory at Doral, he owns just two top-10 finishes in 17 starts – hardly fitting for a player who, in the heat of the moment, referred to himself as a “top-five player” after that win.

Now we’ll find out whether he can maintain that performance level, rather than falter like the last time he was in contention.

If that 82 is still bothering Reed, though, he has an uncanny knack for hiding it.

“That probably rattled me for about 30 seconds,” he insisted. “I was over it. It's golf. You're going to have a bad round. And that's the one thing that I feel like I've done really well, is whether I play really great round or play a real poor round, I get over it real quickly and I try to focus on what's coming up and what's next.

“I didn't really learn it. It's just something I've always been pretty good at. Same thing in tests in class. I memorize the information. I forget two seconds later.”

Reed’s biggest test will come in two weeks, when – like so many of his American counterparts – he’ll be scrutinized for his play.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” he admitted about the Ryder Cup.

His performance this week will be in the forefront of plenty of minds in his last quiz before facing that big test. So far, he’s passing with flying colors.

Getty Images

Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

Getty Images

Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

Getty Images

13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

Getty Images

McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.