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.”
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.