In near perfect weather conditions, Patrick Reed blistered the Palmer Private Course in the first round at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation for a -9 under par bogey-free round, and a one shot lead. The 23 year-old Texan hit 69% of the pristine fairways, and gained over five strokes on the lush greens in LaQuinta, California. Red-hot, Zach Johnson is only two strokes back.
With his brother-in-law, Kessler Karain filling in on his bag because his regular caddie(wife Justine) is pregnant with the couples first child, Reed began his day on the back nine where he made the turn at -5 under par. After carding four additional birdies on the front, he was able to match his career low.
“The course is in perfect shape,” said Reed, the Wyndham Championship winner in August. “The rough isn’t very high, the fairways are perfect and the greens are rolling very true.”
“I started out a little struggling with the driver, had some lefts in it, but luckily I missed it in the right spots,” Reed said. “I was really confident with my irons, kept hitting greens and all of a sudden, 10-, 12-, 15-, 20-foot putts started going in.”
Patrick Reed has been hanging around some leaderboard in the early going this year, but it was his victory at the Wyndham Championship last year where he started to get some notoriety. He missed the cut the following week at The Barclays, but finished 22nd in FedEx Cup points, and took home close to $2 Million dollars.
Reed missed 10 cuts during the season, but when he was playing well, he was able to put up five top 10′s. His early 2013-2014 play has not translated into any wins yet this year, but it’s just a matter of time.
The big name that is lurking around the leaderboard is without a doubt, Zach Johnson. Zach fired is own bogey-free round on Thursday at LaQuinta, and is only two strokes back at -7 under par.
Johnson has been on a tear since winning the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs last year. He followed that with a win at the Northwestern Mutual, beating host, Tiger Woods in a playoff, and a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Zach is showing the golf world that you don’t have to be a big hitter on this tour to make a living. He is one of the best on tour with a wedge in his hand, and can putt.
“I don’t think I’m the best,” Johnson said when asked if he’s the best wedge player.
He pointed to Ryder Cup teammate Steve Stricker.
“He’s the first one that comes to my mind,” Johnson said. “Phenomenal wedge player. … But my wedges are clean. … I’ve worked on it a lot. I’ve worked on it in a number of different ways, but the main way is really just trying to dial in yardages and trajectories.”
The Humana Challenge is a 72-hole event with the cut coming after 54 holes. Players around the cut line will get an extra round this week to make it into the Sunday Finale’.
The perfect weather conditions, pristine fairways, and carpet-like greens are going to force players to make a lot of birdies if they want to play for a piece of the huge purse, and a trophy for the mantle, and those 500 FedEx Cup points.
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