When Patrick Reed walked off the final green at Sheshan International Golf Club, he wasn’t surrounded by thousands of European fans singing in unison. There weren’t questions about team chemistry, or who knew what and when did they know it.
Reed is back to letting his golf do the talking, and he seemingly prefers it that way.
The reigning Masters champ became the center of a firestorm following last month’s Ryder Cup, claiming he was “blindsided” by the breakup of his pairing with Jordan Spieth and insinuating that a “buddy system” was to blame for much of the American struggles in Paris. He has stayed quiet in the three weeks since, opting to focus on his game ahead of the final stanza of 2018.
His return inside the ropes immediately paid dividends, as he conquered windy conditions in Shanghai to shoot a bogey-free, 8-under 64 that gave him a two-shot lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
“To be able to come out here and be first event back, and to feel like I hit the ball really solid, I had full control, especially with how windy it was today,” Reed told reporters. “It felt really, good, because if you can go out and shoot rounds like that in these kind of conditions, you know you’re going to have confidence when the wind dies down and there are perfect conditions out there.”
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Reed’s 2018 will always be remembered for his green jacket-winning performance in April. While he followed it with a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open, his summer season after Shinnecock included a cooling off. He had just one top-15 finish over 10 worldwide starts, that coming at a European Tour event in Germany in July.
Then there was the forgettable week in France, where he teamed unsuccessfully with Tiger Woods in two matches, won his singles point after the overall outcome was already decided and lamented the fact that he didn’t see more playing time given his performance in team events since 2014.
But a short memory can often be a golfer’s best friend, and Thursday in China there were no signs of the swing issues that plagued Reed at Le Golf National. He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation, never really brought bogey into play and closed with a 25-foot birdie on the hardest hole on the course.
“I was hitting irons where I was looking, and I was able to control it not only directional-wise, but also trajectories and what kind of heights I wanted to hit,” he said. “I felt like that was the key, because when it’s windy like that, you have to have full control over it and I was able to do that.”
When Reed gets back to playing in the U.S., even in early 2019, questions about the Ryder Cup and his view of the proceedings are sure to resurface. But this week in China the focus is on the task at hand, as he looks to add another trophy to his growing collection while also boosting his position for the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and picking up some early ground on the PGA Tour’s wraparound season.
“I felt like last year I was doing a lot of things really well, just had to put everything together at once,” Reed said. “I was able to do that today, and was able to go low.”