SHANGHAI – If Patrick Reed felt any concern after stirring Ryder Cup controversy, he showed no trace of it on Thursday in posting a superb eight-under-par 64 for the opening-round lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
In his first start since last month’s heavy USA defeat to Europe, the reigning Masters champ overcame gusting winds en route to an eight-birdie, bogey-free performance at the $10 million tournament in Shanghai.
Reed, 28, whose competitive attitude is often seen as cocky and abrasive, had raised hackles by criticising USA team captain Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup pairings.
But he let his game do the talking at par-72 Sheshan International Golf Course, rolling in lengthy putts for birdie on his second and third holes, and sticking an approach one foot from the pin for another birdie two holes later to ignite the scoring spree.
“It was pumping out there,” Reed said of the swirling winds.
“It felt really good. To shoot a round like that in these kinds of conditions, you know you’re going to have confidence when the wind dies down.”
Fellow American Xander Schauffle and Reed’s Ryder Cup teammate Tony Finau finished tied for second, two strokes back at six-under, while last year’s winner Justin Rose was in a pack of golfers at 69.
Reed had said after the Ryder Cup that he was “blindsided” by being grouped with Tiger Woods rather than Jordan Spieth, with whom Reed formed a potent team in USA’s 2016 victory.
Reed, whose comments were chief among the recriminations in the US camp after their 17.5 to 10.5 loss at Le Golf National, had alleged that Spieth refused to play with him.
But Furyk rejected that, saying pairings were made known to the team weeks before, an assertion later backed by former world number one Justin Thomas.
Reed did not make any comments about the row after his round.
The field in Shanghai features 19 of the world’s top 30 golfers, but newly crowned number one Brooks Koepka couldn’t quite get the momentum going.
Koepka has been hot this year, winning the US Open – his second in a row – the PGA Championship and Player of the Year honours, and victory in the CJ Cup in South Korea last week made him number one for the first time.
But he was among the golfers unable to master the windy conditions, notching just one birdie and a bogey for an even-par 72.
Rose, who seized on a final-round collapse by 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson to win last year, looked sharp but was happy to escape with a 69 after he closed both the front and back nines with bogeys.
“Sixty-nine is about the worst score I could have had out there. I played really good golf. It was possibly an eight-under round with the chances that I had,” said the world number three.
Johnson, who was the planet’s top-ranked golfer until good buddy Koepka leapfrogged him just days ago, will have to battle back after sliding to a two-over 74.
The tournament, dubbed “Asia’s major”, annually gathers a premier crop of players and carries a winner’s purse of $1.8 million.AFP