LA QUINTA, Calif. — Young Patrick Reed regained consciousness just in time to make Sunday’s final round of the Humana Challenge golf tournament at La Quinta interesting.
He had described his first three rounds of 63-63-63 as similar to “being in a putting coma.” The other players in the tournament could only nod in agreement.
Going into Sunday on the Palmer Private course, Reed had made a total of two bogeys. That, along with his 25 birdies and two eagles, gave him a seven-shot lead and reduced the victory expectations of the rest of the field to zilch.
Ryan Palmer expressed that best.
“There were two tournaments today,” he said. “There was Patrick trying to win it and us trying to get second place.”
Palmer reached his goal. He made an eagle on No. 18 and got second place alone.
The rest of the field, as well as spectators and the TV audience, were well aware that only one circumstance would produce any drama. Reed, a 23-year-old with one tour victory already achieved, would have to collapse while another player found his own putting coma.
But, in the end, despite being one of the few players in the field this day not demolishing par, the wheels didn’t come off for Reed, even though the lug nuts were beginning to work loose.
He won with a one-under 71, for a 28-under par total. His winning margin was two shots over Palmer, whose eagle on the 18th brought up the possibility that Reed, playing behind him, might yank one in the lake into the left and make it a show.
But Reed, who got his tour card in Q-School right down the street from the Palmer course just 13 months ago and won in August at the Wyndham, was nothing if not composed. He drove it in the middle at 18, laid up well away from the water, and merely had to three-putt from 20 feet after his pitch.
He lagged it to 2 inches, tapped it in and walked away with a $1.026 million portion of the event’s $5.7 million purse.
The final dagger in the hearts of Reed’s pursuing competitors was a 20-foot, downhill birdie putt on the par-three 15th.
“To birdie 15, to know I sealed it then, it felt comfortable,” Reed said. “I was able to play the last three holes just for par …”
Reed addressed his multiple-tour victory status like a man who was not surprised. He said that he has put in the hard work necessary to win; that he has been playing golf almost from the time he could walk, and that junior victories all the way through the two NCAA title wins he was involved in as a player at Augusta State have bolstered his confidence.
“We want more of that feeling,” he said in his victory news conference. “We want to be able to sit up here more often with a trophy in front of us.”
Not only did he have the Humana Trophy in front of him, but also a crystal plate bearing the presidential seal. It came from former President Bill Clinton, who broke into the news conference with a congratulatory phone call to Reed. Clinton’s foundation is a partner of Humana in this tournament presentation.
Besides Palmer and his eagle on No. 18, the best charge at Reed was made by Zach Johnson, who topped Reed’s string of 63s with a 10-under 62 that included five closing birdies.
The former Masters champion and tour veteran correctly analyzed Reed’s situation — seven-shot lead with 18 to go on a course that can yield low scores and a field of pros who can shoot them.
“It’s not easy,” Johnson said. “You try to stick to what you do, and what you can control. … There’s a balance there of conservative and aggressiveness.”
Reed found the balance.
Now, as he heads to Torrey Pines for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open to see whether he can sit in front of the media again with a trophy in front of him, he can cherish the realization that life, for him and his family, is real good.
He just bought a home and two new cars. His World Golf Ranking, about 600 a year ago, probably will be in the top 50 when new listings are announced Monday.
His earnings for the current PGA season went up to $1,154,250, plenty to take care of mortgages and car payments. And best of all, his wife, Justine, who was his caddie and says she will be again, is pregnant with a daughter.
“I can’t wait to be a dad,” Reed said.
Another benefit is new respect from his peers. That came across clearly, when Palmer summed up Reed’s 63-63-63-71 — 260 tournament.
“It’s ridiculous, what he did,” Palmer said.