Prior to Friday, the list of things that Patrick Reed won’t do was pretty clear.
Sing “Glory Glory to old Georgia” in the shower.
Back down to any European in skinny-cut golf pants.
Contend in majors.
Time for a slight rewrite, perhaps? For Reed had himself his best day ever at the Masters by several miles Friday, shooting the day’s low round of 66 and stepping over guys on the leaderboard like they were but cracks in the sidewalk. Good enough for a two-shot lead over Aussie Marc Leishman going into what is forecast as a soggy Saturday.
OK, for what it matters now, those other items are still pretty well etched into Reed’s bio.
He remains the fallen Georgia Bulldog, transferring after one tumultuous year to nearby Augusta State (now Augusta University), where he helped the Jaguars win two national titles.
He is the Lone Ranger of the Ryder Cup, the avenging hero with the best record in both 2014 and ’16 (6-1-2 overall). That might loom as a very interesting sidelight here, should Sunday come and Reed find himself paired with Rory McIlroy (in third at 4 under entering the weekend). He and McIlroy engaged in a heated, classic head-to-head in a Sunday singles match two years ago at Hazeltine.
He was also the player who in 2014, after winning on the PGA Tour for the third time in seven months unilaterally declared himself a top five player in the world. He has yet to win as many times (adding two more titles to his PGA Tour stash). Or officially climb to top five status (currently No. 24, he got as high as seventh in the world in 2016).
Part of the reason Reed stalled in the rankings had to be his performance in the majors, where he had no top-10 finishes until last year’s PGA Championship (a second). And despite the passing familiarity with Augusta National – as in he passed it all the time in college, and played there on occasion, too – his four previous Masters have been forgettable. Two missed cuts and finishes of 22nd and 49th.
This was some different kind of Reed out there on Friday, mass producing nine birdies on a day when they weren’t obviously that easy to come by. (Ask defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who backed up his opening round 81 with a 78 Friday, missing the cut explosively).
It was for Reed his best-ever Masters round, by a whopping four strokes.
The plan for the weekend: “Got to continue to go out and shoot in the 60s and play good golf,” Reed said. Simple as that.
It otherwise was the kind of day when first-round leader Jordan Spieth could shoot 74 and declare, “It's not so bad.” But that was before Reed tacked on a string of three more birdies on the back nine and pushed his lead over the 2015 Masters champ to five strokes.
Reed had never previously demonstrated a home-course advantage, even though he played just up the street in college. The times the Jags were allowed on Augusta National were invariably cold and wet, Reed said, and the place played even more imposingly long than usual. When he returned as a pro, he played it like he was a stranger.
Now, Reed said, he is finally getting this place. With the help of his wife, who strongly suggested he put away the driver and hit 3-wood off No. 1. He listened, and put up his first birdie of the day.
There are two facts that say it all for how Reed has managed this lead, beyond whatever intangible understanding he has forged. He is tied for fewest putts through two rounds (51), with 22 one-putts. And he is eight-for-eight on birdies on the par 5s. “The par 5s are huge here to pick up ground,” he said. “You can’t shoot low without them.”
Not everyone was quite so flush. Those who retreated Friday included some of your household names.
Spieth’s day began with a double bogey from the trees on No. 1, the highest score he’s ever put up on that hole. And then a three-putt bogey on the par-5 second. It was the kind of opening chapter that only Stephen King could love.
Phil Mickelson was within one of the very early lead three holes into Friday. He proceeded to play the next 15 holes in 8 over par. The lowlight was a very Mickelsonian argument with the trees and azaleas on No. 9 – which he lost on the way to a triple bogey 7 there.
Former Techie Matt Kuchar, in second at 4 under after Thursday, fell out of favor Friday with a 75.
And, obligatory Tiger Woods notice: Well, the good news is he made the cut and will absorb a disproportionate amount of air time this weekend. The bad news is he shot a quite blah 74 and is 13 back of the lead.
Scoring happiness was hardly a given Friday. They were only seven rounds in the 60s, and those fortunate few moved into the breach.
Notably the world’s top two ranked players – Dustin Johnson (68) and Justin Thomas (67), both at 3 under, six back of Reed.
The top seven on the leaderboard includes five major championship winners. The aforementioned Johnson, Thomas, Spieth and McIlroy along with Henrik Stenson (5 under, in sole third place).
Not yet flying with those eagles is the leader Reed. He’d like very much to alter that perception of him, the sooner the better.
About the Author