Beast Mode: Reed out to channel his inner crazy

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2017, 3:55 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Patrick Reed’s eyes glaze over a little when he’s asked about Hazeltine National and last September's Ryder Cup.

“Crazy,” he said, looking a little like Steve Buscemi.

You remember the guy. The one who fist pumped, and yelled, and wagged his finger at Rory McIlroy, and perfectly played the role of endearing antagonist to the Europeans.

His play at last year’s matches, where he went 3-1-1 with a Sunday victory over McIlroy in an instant classic, was something Reed spent much of the offseason thinking about. But it wasn’t the fond memories or late-night celebrations after the U.S. finally broke its drought that occupied his thoughts; it was how he was going to channel all the energy, all that crazy, into events that don't have him clad in red, white and blue.

“We thought a lot about it,” he said. “The hard part is tapping back into it, and also when your mind is not right and your body doesn't feel very good. It's hard to snap into that.”

On the warm shores of Honolua Bay with paradise spread in every direction, it’s not exactly easy to drop into a mindset that's more pro wrestling than pro golf.

Add to that challenge a lingering illness that forced Reed to limit his off-season practice and preparation and delay his trip to Hawaii, and Thursday’s 3-under 70 was probably not entirely unexpected.

Being Patrick Reed, after all, can be exhausting. Pouring that much emotion into something can take a toll. But events like the Ryder Cup, where he made his second start last fall, have a transformative property.

“It just brings out the beast in me,” Reed said before slipping into a fitting third-person narrative. “He's going to probably pop in his headphones. If it's 20 degrees outside, he'll be in a short-sleeved shirt and we'll all think he's crazy, but he is crazy.

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“He's going to go out and he's going to take on the world, literally. You know, it's just so much fun.”

It was fun, epic even, but the challenge for Reed going forward is bringing that “beast mode” to the office every day.

There were the headphones on Friday just past lunchtime, and the swagger, and when he birdied three of his first five holes, if you looked closely enough, you could see crazy in his eyes.

He added birdies at Nos. 10, 14 and 15 to pull into a tie for the lead and closed his round with two more to finish his day one back on a crowded leaderboard. Even without the histrionics that made the Ryder Cup so entertaining, there were flashes of that guy in Maui, where ocean breezes have a tendency of domesticating even the most wild beast.

“Yesterday it was literally impossible, I felt like to get into that kind of zone, and today it felt like it was close, but still it was really hard,” said Reed, who hit all 18 greens in regulation on Friday.

It is slightly ironic that the location has something to do with Reed’s play this week. He won this event in a playoff in 2015 and last year finished second to Jordan Spieth, albeit a distant eight strokes adrift.

But it’s the situation that always dictates how easily Reed is able to corral his inner beast. After all, a quiet Friday in January at the no-cut, winner’s-only TOC isn’t exactly Minnesota madman material, but he’s trying.

It would be a mistake to call Reed’s play when he lapses into his crazy zone the byproduct of anger, which is always a poor form of motivation.

“We were laughing and talking almost the entire round,” he said of his Sunday match with McIlroy. “It would have been really cool to see if they had the cameras on us from when we walked up to the first tee and just followed us the entire round, because it was a very fun banter back and forth.”

At best, it would be more accurate to peg Reed’s competitive transformation to an acute sense of situational awareness, and playing for position on random Fridays doesn't always fulfill that demand.

Reed can see the player he wants to be  just as clear as players can see Molokai looming across Lahaina Roads. The really crazy thing is what he could accomplish if he were able to be that guy more regularly.

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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 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."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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.

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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.''

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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. 

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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.