CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If things had gone properly, Patrick Reed would be playing this week on his initial collegiate course in the Nationwide Tour event in Athens, Ga.
Fortunately for Reed, things did not go properly.
Having failed to sign up for qualifying into the Stadion Classic at UGA, Reed detoured onto the PGA Tour’s Monday qualifying circuit. Three major-league starts later, he finds himself one shot off the Wells Fargo Championship lead against the big boys after a flawless 66 on Thursday at Quail Hollow Golf Club.
“I was just going to go do the Nationwide,” said Reed, who led Augusta State to consecutive NCAA championships in 2010-11 after transferring from Georgia. “Those things fill up so quickly that unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that. But at the same time it kind of feels like it’s a blessing because now I’m out here on the PGA Tour playing.”
Reed is playing and thriving despite not having any status on any tour. After finishes of 35th and 24th the previous two weeks in San Antonio and New Orleans, he made it through Monday qualifying again in Charlotte and finds himself in the hunt. He’s one shot off the lead behind Ryan Moore, Stewart Cink and Webb Simpson.
In his wake is a marquee field including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.
“It just feels like if I keep working on my golf game, keep improving on my golf game, I can play out here,” Reed said. “This tournament, especially, just seems like the field has gotten better and better as the weeks have gone on. Last week I had Bubba (Watson), Luke (Donald) – I had to deal with those guys. This week I have Tiger, Phil, Rory, Westwood. You’re sitting here just like, OK, just week after week getting better. Can’t wait until the next PGA Tour event. Feels like I’m going to have 64 of the top 64 players are going to be there.”
The next tour event is The Players Championship, and the only way for Reed to get there would be to win at Quail Hollow.
That’s not completely farfetched considering the way Reed is playing. His six-birdie opening round follows a 5-under 65 in the Monday qualifier and a 5-under stretch over the final eight holes in New Orleans on Sunday.
“This round was all because of the confidence I’ve had for the past month that’s gone on,” Reed said. “With how I was hitting the ball and how I’ve been hitting the ball, I felt like I could really attack, especially with the driver off the tees. A lot of guys were hitting 3-woods on holes and I was still taking driver. So I was just getting closer to the green and being able to keep it in play. I had a lot of wedges in my hands, and when I had that, I capitalized on it. Whenever you can do that you feel a lot more confident. Next thing you know, 6-under and tied for the lead.”
With his grueling schedule requiring late-night commutes between tour stops for Monday qualifiers, Reed isn’t spending much time on the practice range. He and his fiancee/caddie Justine Karain are saving themselves for the nearly six-hour tournament rounds.
“I’m not really getting to practice a lot after and before rounds here, trying to conserve energy because we’ve been running with our heads cut off, it basically feels like, for the past month,” Reed said.
“Just going to basically keep the mental and physical strength for whenever I’m actually playing on the course.”
Three more days like Thursday, and Reed’s nomadic life could get a lot easier. He doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the caliber of the competition or the quality of the course.
“Just the whole goal of this year is just keep on steady and play steady golf,” he said. “I feel like I can one of these days hopefully holding a trophy.”