JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Patrick Reed said this week at The Northern Trust felt like a Presidents Cup, with the Statue of Liberty bringing back memories of the U.S. team’s dominant victory in 2017, when the matches were played on the same scenic layout.
“At Liberty National, where we won in 2017, having the dinner with [captain Tiger Woods] and the guys earlier this week, and seeing the Statue of Liberty on every hole, and then having the fans yell ‘Captain America’ and ‘USA’ all week, it definitely was on my mind,” Reed said.
But if Reed was being honest, Sunday’s final leg probably had more of a Ryder Cup feel to it, with the American trading birdies with Spain’s Jon Rahm until the very end for his first victory since the 2018 Masters.
It was only fitting that Reed, who won this event in 2016 when it was played at Bethpage, complete something of a competitive transformation this season in the New York area. It was after this year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage that the 29-year-old and his team decided it was time for a change.
At that point in the season, Reed had just a single top-10 finish and had been a non-story at the year’s first two major championships. He was tired, he was struggling to focus and there was no pop in his driver. So Team Reed decided to “shut it off” and take nearly a month away.
“Mentally and physically, I was out of it. I was kind of drained,” Reed said. “I was able to sit down and clearly think and talk through [with] my team what we're doing, what's good, what's not, what we need to fix. From that point, we had a very clear picture and path to move on to.”
For 10 days, Reed didn’t touch a club. Asked for the last time he went so long without golf in his life, he smiled: “1990,” he answered, the year he was born. The break wasn’t easy, not for a grinder like Reed. But when he returned at the U.S. Open, he found a renewed exuberance. His energy was back and so was his focus.
There were plenty of boxes to check off during that team reset, like driving the ball better, but the biggest objective: Get back to playing Patrick Reed golf.
“Go out and be who I am. That's grind. And once I get it on the golf course, go play golf. See golf shots, and hit golf shots,” he explained. “When you go to a place like Pebble, you have to hit golf shots. You can't make golf swings. You actually have to shape balls, do different things, and I just kind of stayed in that mindset moving forward.”
Reed’s brand of golf isn't as aesthetically pleasing as that of some of his peers, but when his game and mind are appropriately focused, the result is a performance like Sunday’s at The Northern Trust.
He wasn’t perfect or even particularly dominant. But Reed has a knack for timing.
After starting the round with a one-stroke advantage, he dropped into a share of the lead following back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3. He fell out of the top spot when Rahm birdied the eighth hole.
From there, it wasn’t what Reed did as the round wore on, as much as it was when he did it. Just as Rahm was making a mess of the 15th hole on his way to his second consecutive bogey, Reed was rolling in an 8 ½-footer at the 14th to retake a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“[Caddie Kessler Karain] looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you have to have him feel that bogey.’ And he's like, ‘You have to go out, and we have to make birdie. You've got to do something to try to rattle him,’” said Reed, who closed with a 2-under 69.
Reed’s driving was much improved at Liberty National, but perhaps even more important in his seventh Tour title was going 17-for-21 scrambling. You know, the little stuff that each year seems to turn the relatively quiet Texan into a match-play strongman.
Although Reed and Rahm were separated by a hole all day, the final round seemed to tap into the bit of Reed’s being that makes him Captain America. The same DNA that drove Reed to a 3-1-1 record at the ’17 matches and lifted him to one-stroke victory over Abraham Ancer on Sunday.
The rub is that it was the memories of the ’17 Presidents Cup that helped drive Reed into a position that suddenly makes the 2019 Presidents Cup a more realistic option.
“I knew where I stood and needed to go out and have a good playoffs and good run here and secure my spot, or at least get myself in position where I have a chance of being a pick,” Reed said. “It just comes down to one of those things that, if you play good golf, it all takes care of itself.”
Reed’s “good golf” in New Jersey wasn’t quite enough to push him over the top-eight threshold and assure him a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team later this year (it moved him from 17th on the list to 12th), but it was plenty good enough to get Captain Tiger Woods’ attention and to remind Woods why U.S. teams are usually better with Reed on them.