DORAL, Fla. — The guy in the red shirt won again.
Patrick Reed, that is, not his hero Tiger Woods, the No. 1-ranked player in the world who never challenged Reed on Sunday.
Reed, a former Augusta State All-American, hung on to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship by a shot over Bubba Watson and Jamie Donaldson for his third career PGA Tour win in his past 14 starts – all coming while wearing a final-round red shirt.
That’s the same color shirt Woods, a 79-time winner on the PGA Tour, has worn in final rounds for his entire career, which includes 14 major championship victories.
Reed, 23, was solid and steady in Sunday’s final round at Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster course, striking for three birdies against three bogeys for even-par 72. Watson had 68 and Donaldson shot 70.
Woods, three back heading into the final round and playing in the group directly in front of Reed, struggled to 78 and tied for 25th place.
Reed said he always wears a red shirt and black pants in final rounds because that’s what Woods does.
“Well, the best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants and a red shirt,” Reed said. “ I was growing up watching him, I always thought, ‘you know, it would be cool to wear black and red come down Sunday.’ I did it when I was in juniors, I did it in amateur golf, and you know, it’s worked. Obviously there’s something behind it.”
Of his three career victories, this was Reed’s only in which Woods was in the field. Woods appeared in position to challenge Reed on Sunday after a third-round 66 left him three shots off the lead. But Woods, who afterward said he was battling the same back pain that forced him to withdraw at last week’s final round of the Honda Classic after eight holes, was 3-over after six holes on Sunday and did not make a birdie.
“Of course it does,” Reed said when asked if the win was special because Woods was in the field. “It’s Tiger Woods. He’s the best golfer probably ever to live, and it’s one of those things that whenever he’s in the field, you always are looking where his name is.”
Reed, a Texas native who grew up in Baton Rouge, La., entered the final round with a two-shot lead. By the turn, he had extended it to four shots, then fell back on the back nine. He settled for bogey on the dangerous 18th hole for 2-over 38 on the back to become the youngest winner of a World Golf Championship.
The previous youngest winner? Woods.
With opening rounds of 68-75-69, Reed was a wire-to-wire winner, finishing at 4-under 284 for four trips over the Gil Hanese-redesigned course that saw the field – which featured 49 of the world’s top 50 players – dunk 318 balls in the water for the week, including 113 in Friday’s second round when the winds reached 36 mph.
In his second full year on the PGA Tour, Reed has now earned $3,492,000 for the trio of wins, all since August. He and Jimmy Walker, who has three victories this season, are the only players with more than one win this season.
How hot is Reed? He’s moved up to third on the PGA Tour money list this season, third in the FedEx Cup standings and to 20th in the world ranking. He was ranked 369th the week of this tournament last year and entered this week’s event 44th.
After Sunday’s victory, Reed said he believes he’s among the top five players in the world because of all he’s done in the past seven months.
The timing of the latest victory is perfect for Reed, who will be making his Masters Tournament debut April 7 at Augusta National Golf Club, which is located 10 minutes from Augusta State, where he went to college for his sophomore and junior years, leading the Jaguars to national titles before turning pro.
“That’s going to be a treat walking down that first fairway at Augusta,” said Reed, who believes he can be in the mix to be the third player to win a green jacket in his first start.
Walker will also be making his debut in the Masters, which means he and Reed will be the first players since Denis Watson in 1984 to make their Masters debut after winning three times since the previous year’s Masters.
On Sunday, Reed continued his prowess as a frontrunner, He also held or shared the lead going into the final round of both his other PGA Tour victories.
In the Wyndham Championship in August, he had a piece of the lead, and at the Humana Challenge in mid-January, where he opened with three consecutive 63s and led by seven after three rounds and won by two.
At Augusta State, Reed had a 6-0 match-play record in the NCAA Championships that the Jaguars won in 2010 and 2011.
He also led his high school golf team – University High in Baton Rouge – to state championship in his junior and senior years.
It did get interesting at the end Sunday.
After three early birdies followed by nine consecutive pars, Reed made his second bogey of the day, on No. 14, missing a 4-footer. That cut his lead to two shots over Watson, who had just finished his round. A few minutes later, Donaldson birdied No. 17 to pull within one shot of Reed.
Reed saved par from the bunker on No. 15 to remain one shot ahead, then two-putted from 54 feet on No. 17 to save another par. Donaldson bunkered his approach on No. 18 and missed a 12-footer for par, meaning Reed had a two-shot going to No. 18, and he knew it.
On the 18th hole, he played the par-4 like a par 5, hitting and iron off the tee and hitting the green in three shots and two-putting for bogey and the one-shot victory.
“I just hit 3-iron to the right because I know that’s not going to get into the trees,” Reed said. “So I was playing for that right rough and laid up with 7-iron, had 80 yards, hit a little wedge to the middle of the green and easy 2 putt.