HOUSTON (AP) Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, Texas-born golfers and Ryder Cup partners, are part of a strong field at the Shell Houston Open with one eye toward next week.
The 21-year-old Spieth and 24-year-old Reed have combined for eight wins around the world in the past three years. That doesn’t include a major just yet, though they figure to have a reasonable chance at Augusta National next week.
Both are in good form.
Three weeks ago, Spieth and Reed were part of a three-man playoff in the Valspar Championship that showed plenty of grit, clutch short-game shots and a determination not to lose until Spieth wound up winning with a 30-foot birdie putt.
Spieth is coming off a runner-up finish in the Valero Texas Open that moved the Dallas native to No. 4 in the world.
When asked Wednesday how he felt he was playing, Spieth said, ”Like a top-five player in the world.”
That phrase is often associated with Reed, who proclaimed himself just that when he won a World Golf Championship at Doral in 2014. Reed is No. 15 in the world and doesn’t back down.
Not from that comment at Doral. Not from the Ryder Cup crowd in Scotland. Not when he appeared to twice face impossible shots in the playoff with Spieth and Sean O’Hair only to answer with brilliance that kept him in the game.
”I don’t regret anything I said,” Reed said Wednesday. ”You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to.”
They are headliners at the Golf Club of Houston, which is about a half-hour from where Reed lives.
The field is missing world No. 2 Henrik Stenson, who withdrew with an illness, and Texas Open winner Jimmy Walker, who took a scouting trip to Augusta National on Monday and withdrew because he wasn’t feeling well.
And while there is so much emphasis on the top players, the Houston Open is the final chance for someone to get into the Masters. The winner earns an invitation to Augusta if not already eligible. That fell last year to Matt Jones, who holed a long birdie putt on the 18th and then chipped in for birdie to beat Matt Kuchar in a playoff.
Sergio Garcia is playing, and the 35-year-old Spaniard has something in common with Spieth and Reed. He hasn’t won a major, either.
Garcia was in their position a generation ago when he was 19 and pushed Tiger Woods to the very end at the 1999 PGA Championship. That was his first close call in a major and there have been others. But he still hasn’t broken through.
”I think I’ve had a great career (even if) some people think the opposite,” he said. ”I feel very fortunate. I’ve done some great things in and outside the golf course. I always give it my best effort. If someone plays better than you the only thing you can do is congratulate him and keep trying. (Winning a major) is important, but it’s not the most important thing.”
The Houston field includes 45 foreign golfers representing a tournament-record 22 countries and 36 of the players here are next heading to the Masters.
Jones is one of six former Houston champions teeing off Thursday, including 2011 winner Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is among the 14 winners of major championships entered.