GREENSBORO — Nothing on the PGA Tour has come easily for Patrick Reed, so why should his first victory?
Reed won the Wyndham Championship on Sunday but not with a blistering final round, comfortable cushion and an easy stroll up the 18th hole.
Reed had to beat Jordan Spieth in a two-hole, sudden-death playoff at Sedgefield Country Cub. The former Augusta State All-American had to execute what he called the “best shot of my life” after his pushed drive on the second playoff hole and clipped a tree, the ball falling close to the white out-of-bounds stakes.
Reed, in fact, initially was told his drive at gone “OB.” For a few scary moments, all seemed lost.
“My heart sank,” Reed said. “I about busted out right there. I pulled the hat down. I look up and see Justine walking back and the look on her face …”
Justine is Reed’s wife. She’s also his caddie, literally beside him every step of the way, for better or worse.
“I was so frustrated and sad,” he said.
But Reed then saw tournament officials in the fairway, swinging their arms back and forth – the “safe” signal in baseball. While he did hit a second, provisional drive, his first ball was safely in-bounds, although leaving him in a tough spot in the rough, a few feet from a tree.
“Little bit of dirt, twigs, couple of spiders. Basically anything you’d find in wilderness,” Reed said of his uphill lie. “It was like I back playing T-ball. The ball was so far above my feet it almost felt like I was taking a baseball swing. I had a tree overhanging. I couldn’t see the flag.”
Reed said he took a three-quarter swing with a 7-iron, the ball going dead straight and landing on the top tier of the 10th green, 6 feet from the pin.
“Crazy good,” Spieth said. “It was one of the best shots I’ve ever witnessed.”
Moments later, having made the putt, Reed was giving Justine a big hug and a big kiss. “Team Reed,” as they call themselves, had won.
Speaking of “crazy good,” Spieth made a 30-foot par putt on the 18th hole, the first of the playoff. He did it after hooking his drive into the trees and having to punch out short of a creek and leaving him 150 yards from the green.
Reed missed an 18-footer on the 72nd hole that would have won the tournament. In the playoff, he had a 7-footer for birdie on the first hole after Spieth holed his bomb for a par, but pushed the downhill putt right of the cup.
Reed’s birdie at the next hole ended the duel between the 20somethings – Reed 23 and a couple of years out of college, and Spieth barely 20.
Spieth won this year’s John Deere Classic in a playoff with a few amazing swings of his own, rifling an escape shot out of trees and holing a bunker shot on the 18th. The former Texas All-American came to Greensboro with more than $2 million in earnings and seeking to be the youngest two-time winner in the modern era of the tour.
“Obviously when you get where it’s one-on-one, especially with the momentum I had, you know, I’m dying to win,” Spieth said. “Winning is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter about the money, it doesn’t matter what you’ve made this year, what you’ve done.”
Spieth, playing in the threesome just ahead of Reed, birdied four of his last seven holes for a 65 and 14-under 266 total. Reed, who shared the 54-hole lead with John Huh, had the lead outright on the back nine before a bogey at the par-3 16th hole dropped him back to 14-under, closing with a 66.
Huh, the 2012 PGA Tour rookie of the year, bogeyed the last two holes, finishing with a 68 to tie Brian Harman for third at 268.
Matt Jones of Australia used a final-round 62 to grab a share of fifth at 269 with Matt Every and former Masters champion Zach Johnson. David Toms also had a 62 Sunday, and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson had his best scoring round of the year with a 63 to tie for 11th.
Reed’s victory had all the perks – a $954,000 payday, a two-year tour exemption, a spot in the 2014 Masters. It also lifted the Texas native to 22nd on the FedEx Cup points list, assuring he’ll be eligible for the first three events in the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs.
Reed helped Augusta State win back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011, saying he has “always been the underdog.” A year ago, he had to play his way into PGA Tour events, making it through Monday qualifiers six times.
Reed kept grinding, recovering from a poor start in the 2012 Qualifying Tournament to earn his tour card for this year. He had four top-10 finishes before Greensboro, and now has a victory.
It’s on to the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“My confidence is out the roof,” Reed said. “I can’t wait.”
“Team Reed” is ready for anything.