Tiger Woods will be wearing his traditional Sunday red in the twosome directly in front of the former Augusta State standout in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. But it’s the world No. 1 who will be chasing one of the few people on Earth with a better career closing record.
Reed is already 2-0 in holding 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour since August, but the stakes have never been higher for the 23-year-old ex-Jaguar.
He looks and sounds as calm as any veteran.
“To me it’s another golf tournament,” Reed said after a Saturday 69 left him with a two-shot lead over Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan and three clear of Woods. “Of course, it’s a World Golf Championship event and there’s a lot more on the line. But at the same time, I have to treat every round and every event like it’s just a normal event and another round of golf. Stick to the game plan I’ve had all week, and that’s what’s gotten me to this point.”
Perhaps the only one who doesn’t consider it remarkable what Reed is doing is himself. Two years ago, he was Monday qualifying his way into tour events after foregoing his senior season at Augusta State. At the end of 2012, he secured his PGA Tour card with zero strokes to spare at Q school.
Two years later, he’s still never competed in a single major championship or even a Players Championship. Yet he’s leading a field of golfers that includes the top 50 players in the world – a fraternity in which he’s already a member at No. 44 despite starting 2013 ranked 584th in the world.
A victory today could move him as high as 21st in the world.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely come very fast but at the same time … it’s one of those things that when you work as hard as we have at home, when you come out here, you’re going to produce numbers,” Reed said. “You’re going to play well. The main thing for me is just stay more consistent and continue shooting low numbers and keep getting these kind of positions where I have leads going into Sunday.”
Reed made a move to the top Saturday when he rolled in a 41-footer for eagle on the par-5 8th hole and added birdies at 10 and 11. Having already beaten Jordan Spieth in a playoff at Greensboro and held off charges by the likes of Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard at Humana, he now has all of golf’s elite looking up at him.
What do they know about him?
“Not much. I don’t know him that well,” Mahan said. “Doesn’t communicate that much. I played with him one time and I don’t know that much about him.”
His collegiate rivals can attest to just how tough he is to beat when it counts. He was 6-0 in the match-play portion of the two NCAA Championships he won at Augusta State.
“If you have a 54-hole lead, that means you’re playing the best golf of the group through three rounds,” said Reed, whose 54-hole lead in his wire-to-wire win at the Humana Challenge in January came courtesy of three consecutive 63s. “Of course, anyone would love to win the event, but at the same time, you have to go in with the kind of mindset that if you happen to not get it done, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve won twice since August. I mean, we’ve played great, and if I continue doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I mean, come Sunday afternoon, hopefully we’re holding the trophy.”
Reed’s PGA Tour bio lists his dream foursome partners as Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter and Stephen Ames – implying a taste for poking the bear. But after prevailing in the final group Saturday with Dustin Johnson, he doesn’t seem afraid of anything.
“Never had the opportunity to play with (Tiger) and I still haven’t been able to play with him,” he said. “But you know, whenever he’s close to the lead, he’s a guy you have to watch out for. But at the same time, I have to go and just play my own game.
“I was playing with Dustin Johnson today and I could have gotten into a situation where I started to play ‘Who Could Hit the Ball the Farthest?’ and I would have lost that battle every time. But I stayed in my rhythm, stayed in my golf game and my game plan, and that’s why I’m sitting here with the lead.”
Nobody in history has ever won three PGA Tour events before competing in his first major championship. Reed will return to Augusta for his Masters Tournament debut next month, and he won’t back down at the chance to make a little history today.
“I’ve always had that aggressive, kind of go for everything (attitude),” he said. “Probably five, six years ago, I probably couldn’t pull off half the shots, even though I would try. Now I feel like 80-, 90-percent of the time, I can pull off any shot I’m trying to do. That just gives me more confidence to the fact that coming down the 71st, 72nd hole, if I have to be really aggressive to have a chance to win, I can do that.”
With the focus on Tiger, as always, as he brought back the swagger with 66, it’s Reed who might steal the Sunday show.
“I get pretty fiery and I’m not scared to throw a fist-pump either,” he said. “Like Tiger.”