Advertisement

Patrick Reed takes two-shot lead at the Masters, with major challengers lurking

In the pack of a dozen men closest to leader Patrick Reed heading into the third round of the Masters, eight are major champions.

If Reed already hadn't considered that, he was reminded when a reporter noted it Friday evening. Reed was asked what that meant for his approach this weekend.

Advertisement

The 27-year-old Texan who played at nearby Augusta State answered with virtually no expression.

"Nothing," Reed said. "I'm just going to go ahead and do the same thing I've been doing."

Namely, throwing plenty of darts at Augusta National in a bid to win his first major in a career that thus far has been defined by spirited Ryder Cup performances.

Reed birdied half the course's holes in the second round, including all of the par-fives for the second straight day, and shot six-under-par 66 to take a two-shot lead at nine under.

Australian Marc Leishman, also hungry for a first major victory, scored 67 and is seven under ... and then the parade of champions followed.

Swede Henrik Stenson (70), a British Open winner, was at five under, with Rory McIlroy (71) and Jordan Spieth (74) — eight major wins between them — tied at four under.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (68) and No. 2 Justin Thomas (67), who were three under, stormed into contention.

Among those at two under and one strong round away from challenging — Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, and non-major winner Rickie Fowler.

Given those names and their current strong form, this is the kind of leaderboard fans hoped for, with one very notable exception — Tiger Woods, with rounds of 73-75, has no shot at pulling on a fifth green jacket.

Reed, a longtime admirer of Woods and fellow Nike endorser, won't be wearing his idol's Sunday colors of red shirt and black pants. Reed said Nike is requiring him to don pink.

He has been mocked by some for flying those colors, since Woods has won 79 times on the PGA Tour and Reed five. But that's the way Reed has rolled, seeming to not care what others think. It earned him the label of "cocky" earlier in his career, though he appears to have come into more favor because of his passionate play for the U.S. teams. Reed has dueled in match play with or against many of the top players on the board in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

"I believe," Reed said, "that if I play the golf that I know how to play, that I can win majors."

He has come close twice, sleeping on a co-lead in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and tying for second at last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

Strangely, Reed has been mediocre in the Masters, despite getting yearly chances to play the course while competing for an Augusta State team that won two national titles. He has two cuts in four tries and a best finish of 22nd.

Advertisement

He'd never shot in the 60s here until opening with a 69 Thursday. He took the second round to another level, as Reed birdied the first three holes and the last three on the front nine to go out in 31. He had another three-birdie stretch on the back from 13 to 15.

Patrick Reed talks with caddie Kessler Karain on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National.
Patrick Reed talks with caddie Kessler Karain on the 18th green during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Reed has feasted on the par-fives with eight birdies, and that was always Woods' strength. Owning 21 one-putts this week means he's sharp with his irons and putter.

"To be able to go out and capitalize on those par-fives, and to make a lot of birdies here, it kind of allows you to be really aggressive when you feel like you're really comfortable with a shot," Reed said. "Or at the same time, even though you might have a short iron, because of what you're doing on the par-fives, you might play a little bit on the cautious side."

After two warm, gorgeous days, the weather is supposed to turn Saturday, with rain expected throughout much of the round.

Reed isn't daunted, saying, "I am from Texas. It blows 40 [mph] and rains every day, it seems like. I'd say I like it when it's challenging."

Immediately behind Reed is Leishman, a 34-year-old, three-time PGA Tour winner who also hasn't fared very well in five Masters. The exception was 2013, when Leishman opened with a 66 and finished tied for fourth.

The easy-going Aussie had the daunting assignment of playing the first two rounds in the same group as Woods, but said he welcomed it.

"I really looked at it as preparation for that later in the week," Leishman said. "I enjoy playing with him. I like playing in front of big crowds, and on the biggest stage, as well.

"I feel like I was prepared for it, and I'm glad I played well to show it."

Like Reed, Leishman also birdied the first three holes, and he hit the shot of the day on 15, where he made a double-bogey seven in the first round. In the fairway but blocked by a tree for his second shot, Leishman lashed a hard draw with his five-iron that carried 200 yards onto the green and rolled within six feet of the cup. He converted for eagle.

"To win this tournament, you're going to have to take a chance at some point," Leishman said, "and I felt like that was one where the reward was worth the risk."

Advertisement
Advertisement