Reed ends winless streak, secures Ryder Cup spot

By Will GrayAugust 29, 2016, 12:11 am

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – As the close calls and near-misses continued to pile up, Patrick Reed started to wonder.

The wins that came so quickly – the quartet of trophies that stamped his name as one of the rising stars of American golf – had begun to collect dust. The wait for trophy No. 5, a gentle foot-tapping that stretched back to January 2015, had become more and more frustrating.

“It’s like, all right, what do I need to do to get over this hump?” Reed said.

The answer, it turned out, was patience.

Through the sea of runner-ups and ties for 10th, Reed stayed the course and remained committed to a game plan that had proven so successful in the past. That patience was rewarded Sunday at The Barclays, where Reed rallied for a one-shot victory that turned a solid year into something much more palatable.

Reed had plenty to play for entering the first postseason event. There was the trophy, sure, as well as a bounty of FedEx Cup points up for grabs. But he was also teetering on the edge of a Ryder Cup spot, a position he felt was a testament to close calls that often don’t add up.

“At the end of the day, a bunch of top-10s, it’s great. But it’s going to make you be on that bubble, as you saw,” Reed said. “I’ve had, it feels like 100 top-10s this year, and I’ve just stayed on that (No.) 6, 7, 8, 9 stretch on that Ryder Cup.”

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Reed had also been hampered in recent months by missing one piece from the proverbial puzzle. He’d string together three strong rounds, but his other score would often leave him too far adrift to be able to make a Sunday charge.

This time around, Reed felt he had gotten his bad round out of the way with a third-round 71 that turned a two-shot lead into a one-shot deficit. It kept him within range of Fowler, and he re-gained the lead when Fowler bogeyed the 11th hole.

Reed wouldn’t relinquish that advantage again, as Fowler stumbled down the stretch to a final-round 74 that cost him his second 54-hole lead of the year.

“You can’t play from the rough out here, especially on the weekend in the afternoon,” Fowler said. “These things were getting crusty and fast and firm. Needed to be on the fairway, and when I was on the fairway, I was great. But I wasn’t there enough.”

Reed put the tournament on ice on the penultimate hole, where he clung to a two-shot lead but left a lengthy birdie attempt 8 feet short. The subsequent par putt found the target and allowed him to cruise to victory despite a bogey on the last.

It’s the type of putt that Reed holed with regularity during his memorable Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Gleneagles, and a test he’ll surely face again next month at Hazeltine.

“It was huge,” Reed said.

Reed’s camp is a close-knit one; his wife, Justine, used to caddie for him and still walks with him every round. Her brother, Kessler Karain, has looped for Reed since Justine left the bag when she became pregnant with the couple’s first child in 2013.

Coming down the stretch Sunday, with the full-throated crowds at Bethpage rooting on a duel between the orange-clad Fowler and Reed decked out in red and black, Reed leaned heavily on Karain to help him stay committed to the plan. Remain patient.

“I tried to get away from it a couple times today, and Kessler, I told him at the start of the day, ‘I don’t care what’s going on, do not allow me to go away from this,’” Reed said. “Every time I tried to, he’s like, ‘No. This is what we’re going to do, this is our game plan.’ Just by sticking with it, it paid off.”

Soothed is the sting from losses earlier this year in Maui and San Antonio. Erased is the perception that Reed didn’t belong in the discussion of golf’s elite simply because he hadn’t lifted a trophy in 19 months.

“Top-10ing 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,” Reed said. “We’re going to go out there to try to get a W, and try to get hardware and try to get a trophy.”

Never short on confidence, Reed picked an opportune time to close out a victory drought he felt had lingered far too long, and he booked his ticket to Hazeltine in the process.

A consistent season, one that had been filled with plenty of settling, now has its highlight.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.