Thursday's golf: Reed moving on from Ryder Cup, shares Bahamas lead
Nassau, Bahamas — Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods are about as far apart as can be on the leaderboard after one round of the Hero World Challenge.
Only they know how close they are after the Ryder Cup fallout.
Reed showed no sign of fatigue in his travels from Dubai to Hong Kong to the Bahamas in successive weeks, making birdie on three of his last five holes Thursday for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with late-entry Patrick Cantlay.
Woods was never under par at any point and opened with a 73, eight shots behind, tied for 16th in an 18-man field.
Reed’s comments after Europe won the Ryder Cup still follow him. In a phone interview with The New York Times hours after the loss, Reed blamed Jordan Spieth for them not playing together, U.S. captain Jim Furyk for twice leaving him on the bench and he made it sound as though he was stuck with Woods as a partner in Paris.
“We spoke after the Ryder Cup for a long period of time,” Woods said. “We talked among us and it will stay between us.”
This is one time Reed held his tongue.
After his eighth and final birdie in balmy weather at Albany Golf Club, he acknowledged nothing more than they had talked.
“Whatever I talk about with other players and other guys stays between the guys,” Reed said.
He also said he hasn’t spoken to Furyk, and Reed told the New York Post on Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to Spieth, but that Spieth has his number.
“It’s been I don’t know how many weeks (since the Ryder Cup), but in the golf world, it’s been a long time,” Reed said. “All of us on our side have moved past that. Basically, when the tournament was over, all of us moved past it and we’re just kind of getting ready for hopefully two years.”
But there’s a Presidents Cup in between, next December in Australia, and while the intensity is not the same, the team concept is intact. And it could get even more awkward considering Woods is the captain.
“I don’t think anything needs to be resolved,” Reed said.
Reed is used to going about life is own way, and he’s not about to made any apologies. He just wants to play good golf, and there was plenty of that on a day that allowed for low scoring. All but three players were at par or better.
Woods was not one of them. His return to tournament competition didn’t start nearly as well as his last one ended.
The World Challenge is his first 72-hole event since he won the Tour Championship at East Lake on Sept. 23, the end of a remarkable comeback season from a fourth back surgery that signaled Woods was capable of winning again.
Woods has been battling a fever. He says his ankles were sore from wear and tear, an issue he says has been around for a few months. On the golf course, he didn’t hit it close enough or make enough putts, leading to only his third round over par in his last 21 rounds.
Woods made consecutive birdies to get back to even par, and then it came undone on the par-3 12th when his tee shot went left, just inside a hazard line but still in play. But the chip came out short, rolled down the bank and past his feet into the water. He took a penalty drop, got it on the green and missed the putt to take triple bogey.
“I had a little patch right behind the golf ball and I tried to toe it in there in trying to make sure I actually hit it long,” Woods said. “It just didn’t come out, and it blew back in the hazard.”
What happens this week is of little consequence.
Most players, except for European Tour members who two weeks ago finished the Race to Dubai, haven’t played in a month and won’t play for another month when the new year starts in Hawaii.
Reed was an exception. He is playing his 30th event of the year, which includes the Ryder Cup. He was runner-up in Dubai and middle-of-the-pack in Hong Kong, arrived in the Bahamas and found his swing in good order.
Cantlay hasn’t played since a 63-65 weekend in Las Vegas on Nov. 4. He was planning to take the rest of the year off, especially after going to Miami the following week to have sinus surgery, giving him a couple of weeks without a club in his hand.
He had never been to the Bahamas, much less Albany, but figured out how to score. Cantlay’s big finish began with a 9-iron out of the waste area to 5 feet on the 13th. He also atoned for a bad drive on the par-5 15th by making a 25-footer, and he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th before finishing with a 9-iron to 12 feet.
He had the only bogey-free round, and better yet, made seven birdies. Cantlay and Jon Rahm are donating $500 for every birdie this week to “California Strong” to help those affected by the wildfires.
Victor Perez continued his fabulous start to life on the European Tour by sharing the first-round lead with an 8-under 64 at the Mauritius Open at Beau Champ, Mauritius.
Perez and Chikkarangappa S. are the co-leaders on the second weekend of the tour’s 2019 season.
Perez finished in a tie for third at the season-opening Hong Kong Open last weekend after graduating from the Challenge Tour.
The Frenchman began at the Four Seasons Golf Course in Mauritius with nine birdies and a single bogey.
“It’s been a really good streak, a little hard to believe in golf when we know how the highs and the lows can be,” Perez said. “I’m trying to ride this wave out as long as possible.
“I don’t really know what was going right. I was kind of in the zone.”
Perez and Chikkarangappa have a one-shot advantage over a trio of golfers: Masahiro Kawamura, Kurt Kitayama and Jaco van Zyl, who was the early clubhouse leader.
Ernie Els, who designed the Four Seasons course, opened with a 3-under 69 as did defending champion Dylan Frittelli. They are in a tie for 22nd.
Marc Leishman’s quest for a first professional victory on home soil got off to a strong start at Gold Coast, Australia, with a 4-under 68 to sit two strokes behind the first-round leaders.
Leishman, starting on the 10th, had two bogeys and two birdies on his first nine before making birdie on four of his final seven holes at Royal Pines.
Leaders Jake McLeod and fellow Australian Matt Jager shot 66s had a one-stroke lead over South Korean Jae-woong Eom and Dimitrios Papadatos.
Leishman, who was in a group tied for fourth, said his round could have been better.
“I think 7-under would be a great score around here,” Leishman said. “It’s been the goal of mine for the last few years, when I don’t have my best golf, my best stuff, to still shoot under par. I’m getting better at it.”
American Harold Varner III, who won the tournament in 2016 and has finished second in a playoff and sixth in three Australian PGAs at Royal Pines, shot 69.
Defending champion Cameron Smith shot 70, as did England’s Andrew (Beef) Johnston, who recovered from being 3-over after three holes and had to be talked out of quitting his round. Starting on the 10th, Johnston hooked drives on the 10th and 12th holes.
“I nearly walked off the course after 12, to be honest,” Johnston said. “It’s been a frustrating year, and yeah, it’s really annoyed me in the past. But I spoke to my girlfriend and she just said keep going, so I did and I just tried to stay calm. Luckily I turned it around.”
Australian veteran John Senden had an air swing on the par-5 ninth hole after the shaft on his driver flexed and snapped in his grip during his downswing. It left Senden off balance and wringing his right hand and led to a long discussion with the rules officials.
Senden argued unsuccessfully that on feeling the club snap, he attempted to pull out of the shot.
There was no penalty recorded but the shot counted as Senden’s second and he went on to make a bogey 6. He shot 72.