Reed - not Woods - making red and black look good

By Jason SobelDecember 6, 2014, 12:22 am

WINDERMERE, Fla. – You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and you sure as hell don’t wear the same one as the man of steel when you’re flying around fighting crime with him.

And yet, there was Patrick Reed on Friday morning, striding confidently to the first tee for his first career competitive tee time with his golfing idol, clad in almost the identical wardrobe that has been draped on Tiger Woods’ body for every victory on his exceedingly lengthy list.

Black hat. Red shirt. Black pants. Throw in a callous scowl and steely-eyed glare, and Reed essentially looked like he was dressed as Woods for Halloween instead of for the second round of the Hero World Challenge.

Not that this is anything new. After his WGC-Cadillac Championship win in similar garb earlier this year, Reed explained that it was a paean to his hero. "The best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt. I was growing up watching him. I always thought, `You know, it would be cool to wear black and red coming down on Sunday.’”

This wasn’t a Sunday, though. It was a Friday and, without question, Reed knew the identity of his playing partner. He later insisted the clothes weren’t an honorarium toward Woods, nor were they malicious trolling.

One thing’s for sure: He wore ‘em well.

Eighteen holes and 63 strokes after stepping to that first tee, Reed was the one who looked like Superman, jumping 14 spots on the leaderboard and rendering his idol to the role of Clark Kent.

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“You know, I’d never played with Tiger before, besides in a practice round at the British [Open],” he explained. “It was good to finally be able to play with him, especially in competition. It was a lot of fun. We had a good time. I felt like we enjoyed ourselves out there, and luckily I played well.”

He played better than that. The 9-under 63 included an eagle and eight birdies against just a single bogey and is the tournament’s best total so far. It moved him into a share of third place entering the weekend.

Perhaps the most surprising part, though, was that he offered no bravado in the aftermath. No referring to himself as a top-five player, like at Doral. No playfully shushing the crowd, like at the Ryder Cup. No needling of the player he grew up watching.

“I've spent a lot of time talking to him before during practice rounds or while we're on the putting green or driving range, so I was already comfortable being around him,” he said. “If you would've asked me that my rookie year, maybe my second tournament and I was paired with him, I would probably say something different.”

Just 24, Reed is now a seasoned veteran. He owns three career victories, ranks two spots behind Woods on the world ranking and is equal parts famous and infamous – an intriguing mix in a game known too often for milquetoast competitors.

This week he’s literally playing with house money, the result of a late invitation into the elite 18-man field after Jim Furyk recently withdrew with an injury.

That sort of nothing-to-lose attitude might be what vaulted him from 17th place to serious contention on Friday, but it wasn’t without some 11th hour preparation, too.

“I found out I got in the event last minute,” said Reed, who last played at the WGC-HSBC Champions four weeks ago. “Probably wasn't really prepared and warmed up and ready to go.”

He could’ve fooled everyone else.

Reed opened with birdies on each of the first three holes, posting a front-nine 29 at Isleworth Golf & Country Club, where coincidentally his playing partner holds the unofficial course record of 59. He didn’t quite challenge that number, but he did beat Woods by seven in their first tournament round together.

One player who was neither surprised by the score nor his red-and-black ensemble was current leader Jordan Spieth, who not only played with Reed in the opening round, but had a front row seat for his brashness at the Ryder Cup, too.

“I was heading to the range and he was going to the first tee; I told [caddie] Michael [Greller], ‘Of course Patrick is wearing red and black today,’” Spieth laughed. “I know he was excited when we got finished yesterday and he saw he was paired with Tiger. … I wouldn't have guessed who would've shot a lower score. Tiger is capable of shooting 9‑under and so is Patrick, so I'm not going to shoot myself with that one.”

Reed didn’t just tug at Superman’s cape. He wore it. Then he stole the scene and saved the day.

Hey, it wasn’t the first time that a guy with a steely-eyed glare and callous scowl made shooting 63 in a red shirt look easy.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”