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No matter what Patrick Reed barrels into – bitter temperatures, sideways rain, tricky winds and even hail – he embraces the noise around him.
And in America’s Finest City it didn’t matter if he had to deal with being the eye of a storm of controversy he himself created.
Reed overcame all of that in a turbulent week at seaside Torrey Pines and captured the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday by five shots, his largest victory margin of his PGA Tour career. Less than 24 hours after another rules incident involving Reed ignited a firestorm criticism in social media circles, he stiff-armed the few pursuers on the South Course on the back nine and signed for a 4-under-par 68 to be finish at 14 under and well clear of runner-ups Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Henrik Norlander, Ryan Palmer and Xander Schauffele.
On an overcast day where four people had at least a share of the lead in the early stages of the final round, Reed, who was tied with Carlos Ortiz after 54 holes, held firm on the back nine while others faltered and won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour. The 2018 Masters champion had an eagle and two birdies in four holes before the turn and made eight pars and birdied his last to polish off his victory.
“I think the basic thing is you have to have resilience, especially when you’re out here because golf’s hard as it is and you come to a place like this where it’s so demanding not just off the tees, it doesn’t matter if it’s a drive, an iron shot, a wedge shot, putt, you have to be all locked in 24/7,” said Reed, who moves to No. 10 in the official world golf ranking. “Whether they’re getting good breaks or bad breaks, you have to really figure out a way to get the job done, to really just drive in and to keep on improving each shot each day. That’s golf, that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s why I love the game. It throws punches at you; you throw punches at it and at the end of the day hopefully you’re the one standing.”
Reed said his Saturday night was basically normal and he rarely thought of the embedded ball episode earlier in the day. Reed took a free drop on the 10th for an embedded ball after his approach wound up well left of the green and in heavy rough. While replays of the shot showed the ball had bounced, Reed was told when he asked marshals that they didn’t see the ball bounce. Nor did his two playing partners, Robby Shelton and Will Gordon, see the ball bounce, and the three caddies had not seen the ball bounce. Thus, Reed alerted Shelton and Gordon that he was going to check if the ball was embedded.
He picked up the ball, put his finger into a hole in the ground, and decided the ball was imbedded. Then he called for a rules official to make sure the ball had been embedded and the official, Brad Fabel, declared it was. Reed was allowed take a free drop and made par and eventually grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead.
“At the end of the day, after I called the rules official and everything on the 10th and then once they confirmed up in scoring after the round that I went through the right protocols to do what I was supposed to, at that point everything was put to bed,” Reed said. “It was what we were supposed to do and they said we did it correctly. So for me it was kind of another night to kind of get ready and just kind of rejuvenate myself to get ready for Sunday. It’s a long week, especially with how the weather’s been early on in the week, and on top of that you want to make sure that you’re fresh coming in on the final round and kind of really just stay focused and work on the things that we were building all week.”
That included continued refinement of his new swing that has taken hold after Reed started working with David Leadbetter last fall.
“It’s very easy when you’re making changes to make quality golf swings on the driving range. It’s one thing to put it in play at a tournament in the final round at a demanding golf course like this,” Reed said. “It definitely allowed me to feel very comfortable and confident with how the game is and what’s coming forward.
“The swing’s going in the direction we want it to go and it couldn’t have been better to go ahead and not just win the golf tournament, but to win it by a large margin as well and to go out and shoot in the 60s on Sunday.”
Reed said his eagle from 45 feet on the sixth ignited his round and his clutch par saves from off the green on the 11th, 14th and 15th were vital.
“The biggest thing is being able to do that through the whole week and basically sticking to the script of my coach and I locking in the swing and really trying to grow the swing and being more comfortable with the swing come down especially on a Sunday,” Reed said.
After a superb front nine 4-under 32, Hovland grabbed a share of the lead early on the back nine but made bogeys on 14, 15 and 17 to fall back. He found the native area with his approach on 14 for the second consecutive day and drove behind a tree on the 15th.
“The front nine was awesome, made four birdies and was just really solid tee to green; made some putts there as well,” he said. “On the back I didn’t really feel like I played bad at all. It was just a couple of mistakes and it’s so easy to just let things kind of slip away.
“But it was cool to kind of be up there having a chance to win. Didn’t work out this time but feel like I learned a lot and look forward to next week.”
Finau, looking for his second PGA Tour title for five years now, gave himself a chance as he moved within three shots heading to the par-5 18th. But after a superb drive, he hit his second into the pond guarding the front of the green. He has now finished in the top-10 35 times without a win since the start of 2017 – seven of those being of the runner-up variety.
“I hit a 3‑iron,” Finau said of his second shot on 18. “It was 243 to the hole, 237 covering onto the green, which it was actually just a perfect number. So I hit it right at it, hit a really good shot, but my ball was barely in an old divot, a quarter of the ball sitting down just enough so I hit down on it a little harder to make sure I got it out of there and it kind of ballooned on me, and it was sad to see it go in the water because I hit such a good shot.”