You could be forgiven for thinking Patrick Reed took early retirement after March 15. That was the day Jordan Spieth beat Reed and Sean O’Hair in a three-hole sudden-death playoff at the Valspar Championship outside of Tampa, which launched Spieth into the stratosphere. Reed, meanwhile, remained earthbound even while making 25 of 27 cuts and earning $3.6 million. He won no more tournaments, majors or otherwise, going dormant while his contemporaries Spieth and Jason Day racked up 10 Tour titles, three of them majors.
Now, Reed, 25, is on the rise again. His playoff loss at last week’s BMW Masters in Shanghai — the third of the European tour’s four-tournament Final Series — marked his fourth straight top-10 finish in Asia.
“It’s a definite improvement,” said Reed, who spun his sand shot into the hole for eagle at the par-5 15th hole but missed a five-footer to bogey 17 and fall into a playoff with Kristoffer Broberg, 29, of Sweden. “Obviously it shows the things I’m working on [are working] because last year, it seemed like I started off strong with a win but kind of was flat throughout the rest of the year until this end run.”
Using a putter he found in the bag of his coach’s wife, Broberg made a 15-foot birdie putt in the playoff to deny Reed his first W since January.
The BMW Masters marked the penultimate stop of the European tour’s 2015 season, which concludes with this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Rory McIlroy, who skipped the BMW but still leads the Race to Dubai standings, would salvage a disappointing second half of 2015 should he hang onto that lead through Sunday’s finale.
The other two major tours are also reaching an end point this week, the PGA Tour with the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Ga. — after which the Tour will take a six-week break — and the LPGA with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla. That’s where Inbee Park, coming off a final-round 64 to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, and Lydia Ko will fight it out for Players of the Year honors as well as a $1 million bonus.
End-of-season tournaments can mean little, what with the majors long gone, but they can also mean everything. Just ask Graeme McDowell, who was wondering if his best days were behind him before he birdied the first playoff hole to win the PGA Tour’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba on Monday.
Reed hopes for a similar revival on the European tour. Dubai will mark his 13th start on that circuit. “Proud to be a member of the European and PGA Tour,” he tweeted. “What an experience so far! Next stop, The Atlantis in Dubai.” That the Euro tour has provided the backdrop for his comeback is a tad ironic, given that a year ago he was busy playing the villain in Scotland, shushing the crowd as he went 3-0-1 at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
The Yanks needed more fearless and unapologetic players of this type, his supporters said. Reed shot 63 the first time he was paired with Tiger Woods, at the Hero World Challenge last December. He won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. He looked like a star.
What happened? The short answer is that Reed was bedeviled by the driver, hitting fewer than 55% of the fairways to drop to 171st in that category. He hit fewer than 65% of the greens in regulation, 141st best on Tour. It’s hard to win like that, even with Reed’s otherworldly short game. He surely wasn’t helped, either, by all the clucking over Shane Ryan’s Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour, which dropped in June and detailed Reed’s volatile and divisive years at Georgia and Augusta State.
Reed didn’t play terribly this year; he just didn’t win. He finished 22nd at the Masters, 14th at the U.S. Open and 20th at the British Open. Those aren’t bad results, but they looked downright pedestrian in light of what Reed’s old Valspar foil Spieth was up to.
Is it too late for Reed to get back in the game with the world No. 1? Hardly. Winning, as Spieth will readily admit, is a habit. Before he put his stamp on 2015, Spieth had to remember what it felt like to lift a trophy at the Australian Open and the Hero. Now it’s up to Reed to do the same in Dubai.
“We’re doing the right things,” he said in Shanghai. “Just need to keep on plugging along and hopefully close one out here shortly.”