It was after the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black when Patrick Reed decided he was quitting golf. Not for good, but at least for a few days to figure out why Captain America had lost his super powers.
Reed, the 2018 Masters champion and Ryder Cup hero, missed the cut at Bethpage after rounds of 74 and 72. It was the low point of a difficult stretch during which he hadn’t come close to sniffing a top-10 finish since tying for 14th at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. His swing felt fine and his putting was decent, but the results were consistently disappointing.
“I love to play,” Reed said Saturday at Liberty National in Jersey City, where he will take the 54-hole lead into the final round of The Northern Trust. “But my team hadn’t seen the type of golf I played at Bethpage where we thought we were doing things well, but the numbers were getting worse and worse. I couldn’t put a finger on it. So my team said, ‘Let’s shut it down and take a break. Hang out with the family, don’t touch a golf club for 10 days and we’ll reset.’ ”
Reed not touching a golf club is like a smoker quitting cigarettes cold turkey. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. He said he felt like toast, his body drained and his brain fried.
“I came back and the next thing you know I was hitting it 20 yards farther than I when I first went into the break,” he said. “Right then and there I knew I was recharged and ready to go.”
Reed is looking like Captain America again, the player who spirited the U.S. team to victory at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and won the 2018 Masters. His 4-under 67 on Saturday set him at 14-under for the tournament, good for a one-shot lead over Abraham Ancer. He also will be chased by seven other players within four shots of his lead.
It’s the first time Reed has held a 54-hole lead since winning the Masters, the most recent of his six PGA Tour wins. He played well Saturday, navigating tricky 10-15 mph winds. He had five birdies, with his only bogey coming at the par-4 15th, where he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker and his second shot into some trees. Otherwise, his ball-striking was solid. He had just 24 putts.
“The biggest thing for me is to allow my mind to get out of its way and go out and be who I am and that’s grind,” Reed said. “Once I get on the golf course, just go play golf: see golf shots, hit golf shots. I was able to do that basically after I got done with my break. Now it’s just go out, stick to the game plan and hope we have a chance to win a golf tournament on Sunday.”
He also made a slight equipment change that has proven beneficial. Last Sunday, Reed switched to a softer, higher-launching golf ball to limit the release. He shot 7-under in the final round at Greensboro, N.C., and now 66-66-67 at The Northern Trust.
“It’s going in the right direction,” Reed said. “I think I’m doing a lot of things well. I just need to continue to play great golf and continue improving on what we’re trying to do. It’s awesome to be in contention again.”
Perhaps it makes sense Reed is turning into Captain American again at Liberty National, where the U.S. won the Presidents Cup in 2017 with Reed going 3-1-1 in his matches. The karma may help on Sunday.
“Seeing the Statue of Liberty and hearing the chants U.S. and Captain America out there on the golf course is nice” Reed said.
His super powers have returned.