In his first tournament following a tumultuous (to put it mildly) Ryder Cup, Patrick Reed leads the WGC-HSBC Champions after Round 1. Reed fired an 8-under 64 and is up two on Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau after the first day of play at Sheshan Golf Club.
Reed, who shot 32 on both sides of the course without a bogey to be found, could not have been more dialed in. He hit 12-of-14 fairways, all 18 greens and made a whole host of long birdie putts that helped push him into the lead. It was as flawless a round of golf as you’re going to see, especially at the end of October during this part of the season. And especially on a breezy day like we saw on Thursday in Shanghai where only 15 golfers were 3 under or better on an easy course.
It may have been unexpected, too. Reed, who hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since he criticized, well, pretty much everyone involved on the U.S. side of the Ryder Cup, played brutally in Paris for the most part and doesn’t have a top 10 on the PGA Tour since the U.S. Open in June.
Such is golf.
“Feels great,” said Reed. “To be able to come out here and to be first event back, and to feel like I hit the ball really solid, I had full control, especially with how windy it was today. To only miss two fairways and to miss one green, but the green I missed I was on the fringe and I was able to putt. It felt really good, because if you can go out and shoot rounds like that in these kind of conditions, you know you’re going to have confidence when the wind dies down and there are perfect condition out there.”
Tournaments this time of the year — even big money ones like the HSBC Champions — are often snoozers. However, with a villain (perceived or not) like Reed out in front and golfers like Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Finau and Schauffele chasing, the next few days should be fairly intriguing.
“[I] really just need to keep on taking it day by day and try to shoot the lowest round I can each day,” said Reed. “Hopefully shoot a couple more of these rounds.”
It would be an all-time bounce back for Reed to win in his very first appearance following the Parisian mini meltdown and one I would enjoy. Golf is better when Patrick Reed is playing well — no matter how you feel about him — and on Thursday in China, Patrick Reed played great.
Here are three more takeaways from Round 1.
1. English storm: Of the seven Englishmen in the field, five of them are currently in the top 10 on the board. Matthew Fitzpatrick (4), Fleetwood (T5), Rose (T10), Ian Poulter (T10) and Matt Wallace (T10) all have a great shot of winning this golf tournament after the first day. This isn’t super surprising as several of these players also play on the European Tour, which is just now entering the stretch run of its season with the Race to Dubai wrapping in a month’s time. A victory here would go a long way to helping one of these golfers vie for that title as well. “There was quite a bit of wind and it was playing quite difficult out there,” said Rose. “But I actually think 69 is the worst score I could have had today. I played really good golf.”
2. Struggling Francesco: The surprise of the first day for me was a 76 from Francesco Molinari. Not only is he the reigning Open champ, but he had a lights out Ryder Cup and ended last PGA Tour season on fire. Maybe his aching back is catching up with him, or maybe he’s worn down from what has been the best year of his career. Regardless, he’ll need a monster next two days to have any hope of riding into the top 10 late on the weekend in Shanghai.
3. Middling greats: The powerhouse trio of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 2 over on Thursday with seven bogeys and two double bogeys between the three of them. They all have the firepower to get back into the tournament on Friday and Saturday, but with Reed and others jumping out to such a big lead, the next 36 holes are important if any of them wants to get in the mix on Sunday.
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