Reed leads at the Masters as Tiger Woods scrapes by
Five major champions are not far behind
Patrick Reed is leading a major championship for the first time, and his confidence is so high that he can only see what’s ahead of him.
Maybe that’s just as well at this Masters.
Reed started and finished the front nine with three straight birdies. He answered Marc Leishman’s bold shot for an eagle by polishing off another run of three straight birdies. It added to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Leishman going into the weekend at Augusta National.
Right behind them are five major champions.
Nowhere near him are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two names that generated so much of the buzz for a Masters that otherwise is living up to expectations.
None of it matters to Reed, who is going after his first major.
“Everyone wants to win, and if you don’t believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn’t be playing in them,” Reed said. “I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play that I can win majors. ... There’s a lot of holes left, and I just need to go out and keep to my game plan, play some solid golf and just go out and continue shooting in the 60s and see if it gets the job done.”
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson still have a say in that.
Woods and Mickelson probably don’t.
Woods hit one shot into a cluster of magnolia trees and another into Rae’s Creek. He didn’t make a birdie until the 13th hole and had to settle for a 3-over 75, leaving him 13 shots behind. No one has ever won the Masters when trailing by more than eight shots going into the weekend.
“I’m going to have to shoot a special weekend and I need help,” Woods said. “I’m not in control of my own destiny.”
Mickelson smacked a shot into the trees trying to escape a forest and made triple bogey, deposited a tee shot into Rae’s Creek on No. 12 for a double bogey and shot a 79, matching his worst score at Augusta National. He started the day four shots out of the lead. He ended the day making the cut on the number.
Even without them, the show is just getting started.
Reed was a runner-up at the PGA Championship last summer, though he played the final hole without a chance to win. His best performance on the big stage has been in the Ryder Cup.
“Going to treat it just like another day, go out and try to do what I’ve been doing and stick to my game plan and try to make some more birdies,” Reed said.
He was at 9-under 135.
Leishman seized on his moment with the best shot of the day. His tee shot on the 15th was too far left, leaving trees between him and the flag. Instead of laying up from 210 yards, he closed with the face of a 5-iron, aimed toward the right bunker.
“I meant to hook it 30 yards, and I put 40 yards of hook on it,” Leishman said with a smile.
The ball narrowly cleared the mound at the front of the green, caught the slope and settled 6 feet away for an eagle.
“We’re not here to lay up,” Leishman said. “It’s a major. You’re going to have to take some chances at some point during the week if you want to win, and that was a time where I thought I had to take a chance. I’ve been hitting that shot well on the range and I thought it was a prime opportunity to give it a test. And it came off.”