When other golfers maligned unforgiving Shinnecock Hills this weekend, Patrick Reed said it was fair. When there were grumblings Saturday that they could lose the course, Reed said he didn’t think that was probable at all. And when everyone else treated Shinnecock as a foe to be vanquished — a wild and unpredictable terrain to be survived, but not necessarily enjoyed — Reed befriended it.
He spent a week walking the grounds with longtime Shinnecock Hills caddy Tim Fox. He tried to learn, he said, its quirks and understand its tantrums.
And in the end, Shinnecock returned the favor.
Though he came up short of the U.S. Open victory, Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, put together a rousing comeback — throwing himself into contention as Dustin Johnson faltered — and finishing fourth at 4 over par, thanks to a 2-under 68 Sunday. This, after he ended Saturday at 1-over 71, three shots off the lead. Reed wasted no time rewriting the narrative Sunday, going from afterthought to a temporary main attraction after he birdied the first three holes.
Johnson, who led for the first three days, ended up third, and Brooks Koepka claimed his second U.S. Open in a row.
“I knew I had to [have] a hot start,” Reed said. “Watching those early scores today and watching the live coverage, it seemed like the greens were really receptive. So I knew that in the beginning part of the round, you had to attack and I had to put as much pressure as I could on the leaders and I was able to do that. I felt like I really didn’t miss a golf shot” through the first 11 holes.
Part of his success came from his study of Shinnecock.
“It felt like four different days and four different golf courses,” he said. But he was as prepared as he could have been, speaking to Fox, a local Shinnecock whisperer, picking his brain and working with him all week.
“I felt like it helped because to be able to go around with Tim, he was able to tell me if this hole plays really firm, this is kind of the way you’re going to want to play this hole,” he said. “If this plays soft, as it was when I was here, then you knew what to do.”
And it so happened that this tournament ran the gamut of conditions. There were whipping winds Thursday and a firm course Friday. Saturday?
“You had medium to soft to ridiculously firm,” Reed said, and on Sunday, after they had watered it, it was simply soft. That last one meant that Reed could be about as aggressive as he pleased.
His birdie on the third hole — a 372-yard drive followed by a 4-foot putt — temporarily gave him a share of the lead. Reed eventually endured a few bad breaks, with bogeys on 11 and 12 (he insisted that he played 11 how he wanted to, it just didn’t work as he’d hoped) and another bogey on 18.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” he said, but “to finish in the top ten three of my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.
“I had a chance. I definitely had a chance. Just too many missed putts, and at the end of the day, just needed to hit the ball a little closer.”