Bethpage Black gave up a pair of course record-tying 64s Sunday morning, but as the leaders fought to win The Barclays with automatic Ryder Cup berths and valuable FedExCup points at stake, the great course bared its teeth, causing the wheels to come off Rickie Fowler’s bandwagon and blunting charges by world No. 1 Jason Day and former Masters champion Adam Scott.
Patrick Reed had one hand on the trophy when his lead reached three strokes with three holes to play, but he made two bogeys and a par-saving seven-foot putt at No. 17 on the way home. He was clinging to the lead by his fingernails as he climbed the hill to the 18th green, but when he two-putted for the bogey he needed to win by one stroke, it felt as though he had summitted at Mt. Everest.
“At the end, my nerves got a hold of me, and I reverted back to some of the old swings,” said Reed, referring to bad habits with his driver. “It was nice to have that lead because I needed every one of them.”
Reed shot a 1-under-par 70 for a 72-hole total of 9-under 275. Sean O’Hair fashioned a final round 66 to tie for second at 276 with Argentine Emiliano Grillo. Day (69) bogeyed the 16th to drop into a three-way tie for third at 277 with Scott (71) and Gary Woodland (69).
Fowler had the biggest meltdown. He had only one bogey through 64 holes of the tournament, but a streak of 55 holes without a bogey ended at the par-4 11th when he failed to get a sand save and fell out of a tie for the lead with Reed at 10 under. He bogeyed the par-4 15th the same way and took double bogey at the 16th when his first shot out of a greenside bunker barely cleared the lip and nestled in deep rough.
Fowler stopped the bleeding with a birdie at the par-3 17th but hit a wild drive at No. 18 on his way to a closing bogey and a final round 74 that dropped him to a seventh-place tie at 6-under 278. He needed to finish solo third or better to earn one of eight automatic Ryder Cup qualifying berths but now must hope to be one of four captain’s picks.
“Very disappointing,” Fowler said. “It’s not the way I was playing the back nine all week . . . No. 15 and No. 16, if I go par-par there, it’s a different story.”
When Reed and Fowler finished the 10th hole, they were tied at 10 under par, and were among seven players separated by two strokes. Reed made a par save out of a bunker at the 11th when Fowler bogeyed and then sank a birdie at No. 12 to reach 11 under with a two-stroke lead.
“I felt like that stretch right there set the tone for me and kind of let me run with it back to the winner’s circle,” Reed said.
It was touch-and-go until he made the seven-footer to save par at the par-3 17th. Reed said caddy Kessler Karain told him, “I don’t care what [break] you see on this, just make it.”
“This one lipped in for me,” Reed said. “Going into No. 18 with a two-shot lead is so much easier than with a one-shot lead. As long as you don’t hit it out of bounds, the odds of you being able to make five are definitely in your favor.”
Reed barely got it home for the win, but he clinched an automatic Ryder Cup berth. “It was very important,” said Reed, who was on the losing U.S. side two years ago in Scotland. “I want sweet revenge like our whole team does.”