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

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

Getty Images

Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

Getty Images

After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

Getty Images

Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.