Patrick Reed has won the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events - the Northern Trust - and our man's back with his weekly reflections piece here...
"It was all a bit of a grind and he revealed afterwards that he’d woken up with a “tight back” but Reed hung in brilliantly under the circumstances."
We were treated to really exciting finish to the Northern Trust yesterday but we still haven't seen a single playoff on the PGA Tour this year after third round leader, Patrick Reed, eventually edged out his Sunday playing partner, Abraham Ancer, by a stroke.
Jon Rahm had looked far and away the most likely winner after back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 had seen him hit the front. He traded at a low of [1.3] but he followed the birdie brace with a pair of bogeys at 14 and 15 and a little agitated and ill at ease, the Spaniard could only par his way in from the 14th.
Reed, a pre-event [60.0] chance, began the final round with a one stroke lead and he was trading at around [3.2] but he soon shortened up with a birdie at the first. Rather than settle the nerves though, the birdie seemed to have the opposite effect. He'd been bogey-free until the 15th hole on Saturday but having appeared to have given himself a bit of breathing space at the opening hole, he bogeyed three of the next five holes.
It was all a bit of a grind and he revealed afterwards that he'd woken up with a "tight back" but Reed hung in brilliantly under the circumstances. He steadied the ship after the sixth hole and he put himself back in front with this brilliant birdie at the par three 14th.
After finding the fairway off the tee at 15, and with the drivable par four to follow on 16, it was beginning to look like a done deal again but there was yet more drama to follow.
Reed hit an awful approach that finished up in the native area right of the green, just as my [250.0] in-play pick, Harold Varner III, gave himself a great chance for birdie at the 17th hole. At the time, Reed led by a stroke but a two-shot swing looked perfectly feasible even after Reed's third stroke. He had just shy of ten feet for par on 15 and my man, who had just missed from six feet for birdie at 16, had seven feet for a birdie three at 17. Varner was matched at a low of [4.0] but he missed his attempt just as Reed poured in the par save and that was that.
He went on to birdie the 16th to give himself a two-stroke cushion with two to play but still he couldn't relax as Ancer birdied 16 and 17 to get within one. The Mexican was matched at a low of [4.8] but he never looked like birdying the last and actually needed to hole out from seven feet for par, leaving Reed to knock in his three-footer for his first title since the US Masters last year.
Given Ancer began the week as a [330.0] chance and that Varner was matched at [1000.0] before the off, both men will have been happy enough to have moved up the FedEx Cup rankings and to be in the field for the BMW Championship on Thursday but Rahm will see this as another big chance missed, following his flop at the Players and his gradual fall down the leaderboard at the FedEx St Jude two weeks ago.
Having enjoyed a decent run, I've lost a few quid for the second week in-a-row but I did at least salvage something from the week by laying Varner back in-running last night at an average of [11.0]. I didn't have a huge bet at [250.0] and I wanted to keep enough in him to make it a good result had he won so I didn't lay any more off when he shortened right at the end but with hindsight I obviously should have.
I very nearly layed him at [4.5] to put myself in profit for the week but changed my mind and thought I'd go for it. I felt at the time that he was still a bit big and I'm not convinced it was an awful decision. It didn't work out but had he made his birdie at 17 and had Reed missed the par save on 15, Varner would have gone to the 18th with a one stroke lead and he'd have traded considerably shorter and possibly even at odds-on. It was a calculated risk not to lay him back any further and it didn't work out but that doesn't necessarily mean it was the wrong decision. Another week it would have been very much the right decision and I've got no regrets.
I also backed Adam Scott at a triple-figure price after he'd birdied 16 and 17, considering him to have a chance if he could add another on 18 but he could only make par there and he was eventually beaten by three.
Liberty clues were all Down Under
If and when we return to Liberty National, we need to consider form in Australia. Adam Scott, who won here in 2013, has expressed an opinion that the course has a Melbourne Sandbelt feel about it and both Ancer and Varner have boosted that with their prominence on this year's leaderboard. Varner won the Australian PGA Championship in 2016 and Ancer won the Australian Open last year. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who both contended have also won the Australian Open.
Changes afoot regarding slow play
Slow play has been an issue for years and every so often a player is singled out for attention. Ben Crane, Kevin Na, J.B Holmes and Patrick Cantlay (to a lesser extent) have all been put under the snail spotlight and last week it was the turn of Bryson DeChambeau.
I absolutely get that the game needs to speed up but I really don't like the way everyone seems to turn on one player at a time. Coverage of Bryson taking his time playing a pitch and then taking far too long over a putt are easy enough to find online and people relentlessly tweeting the coverage is one thing but it all gets a bit distasteful when players are almost squaring up about it. See below tweet.
Was standing on the putting green with Koepka's caddie earlier when an irritated Bryson DeChambeau walked up & told him to tell his boss to make any comment about slow play "to my face". Brooks arrived soon after, got the message & ambled over for a chat with the scientist.? Eamon Lynch (@eamonlynch) August 11, 2019
This sort of unsavoury behaviour is surely not good for the game and it's no surprise to see that the PGA Tour have acted swiftly, issuing this statement on slow play. It's an interesting read that highlights just how complicated the whole issue is. The use of technology sounds like a great idea and far fairer than singling out one player at a time for what escalates quickly to something that's almost tantamount to bullying.
I'm hoping to be back later today with my Czech Masters preview and I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the BMW Championship.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter