PATRICK Reed drowned out the ongoing criticisms over his bunkergate in the Bahamas to land his second World Golf Championships title in a thrilling finish in Mexico City.
Just when it looked as though Bryson DeChambeau, who has certainly public criticisms over his pace of play, was about to race to a first WGC title of his own, the final holes at Chapultepec Golf Club conspired to give Reed a race at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Reed – who was accused of cheating by both Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey’s coach Peter Kostis in the build up the first WGC of the season – said: “It means a lot to win.
“One of our goals was to go out and win a golf tournament and try to get in that winner’s circle before Augusta.
“And to be able to go ahead and do it before I even got to the Florida Swing definitely gives me momentum and gives me the confidence that we’re playing really well.
“Now I just need to continue to grind, continue to work, and hopefully there’s more coming up soon,” added Reed, who was ranked World No. 14 going into the week.
“The putter was really hot. I felt like I was hitting a lot of really good putts, hitting it on my lines, and your speed has to be perfect. I felt like I was able to dial it in.
“It definitely helped me out today because I didn’t hit the ball that great on the front, had a lot of up-and-downs just to kind of hang around there.
“I knew if I was able to get a little hot with the ball-striking, I’d be able to rack up some birdies, and I was able to do that at the end.”
How Captain America emerged victorious despite ‘cheating’ calls
THE American Ryder Cup star – dubbed “Captain America” after his debut in 2016 at Hazeltine – emerged victorious from a battle that went one way and then the other.
DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Reed and Erik van Rooyen all shared the lead at the turn, while World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and overnight leader Justin Thomas were just a shot back.
Patrick Reed pulled clear though, picking up four birdies in six holes from the 12th.
That left the 2018 Masters winner with a two-stroke advantage going down the last and – despite a wild tee shot on the par four 18th – he managed to compose himself for a two-putt bogey to post 18-under in the penultimate group.
That four-under 67 handed Reed a one-shot victory in the same Championship at which he claimed his first WGC title in 2014 – when it was staged at Miami’s Doral resort.
Victory moved the 29-year-old to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings.
DeChambeau’s six-under 65 earned him outright second place, while Reed’s fellow European Tour members Rahm and van Rooyen shared third spot on 15-under.
Rahm claimed he was struggling by the turn and said: “I mean, it was going to be very easy to focus on the last few putts that weren’t good. It is what it is.
“But to be honest, I was not good through 27 holes. The fact I had no chance and shot 19-under after that, it’s pretty ridiculous.
“If anything, I’ve got to reflect on the first two days. I did give myself a chance, but my swing wasn’t feeling the best three out of four days, and today it showed.
“I kind of pulled it together, but it was hard to catch with Bryson making all those birdies. If anything, I had a chance, but I’ve got to focus more on the fact I should have given myself a better chance after the first few holes.”
First round leader McIlroy struggled to gain any momentum on the final day, but did continue his remarkably consistent recent form as he picked up a fifth successive top five – a run which began with his victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions, in Shanghai, in November.
McIlory said: “It was frustrating. I don’t feel like I got the best out of myself.
“Obviously I started the week well, and then I feel like I just hit some loose shots, and I didn’t putt as well as I needed to over the last three days.
“And I just let a few shots get away. I’m just looking forward to a week off. Looking forward to getting away for a little bit.”
•For final scores click here.
Van Rooyen happy to be in contention
ERIK van Rooyen found himself in exalted company, and having struggled when in contention in Europe over the last 18 months, was happy with the way the 30-year-old acquitted himself in contention for a WGC for the first time.
Van Rooyen: “I felt better than I did yesterday, and I think there was a lot more going on yesterday. I got off to a really good start again today. Ten and 12 obviously hurt quite bad.
“I think I played some really good golf the last four days, and I think I can hold my head high,” said the South African, whose first European Tour win came in the Scandinavian Invitation, in August.
“I mean, there’s still so much to play for. Yes, we all want to win, but at the same time, I’m trying to finish as high as I possibly can, so I’m not going to go lie down after a bogey.
“I think we had a really good finish, gave myself a few good chances coming down the stretch, and my game is in great shape. I’m looking forward to the next one,” added van Rooyen.
Keopka and Kostis call out Reed over ‘cheating’
BROOKS Koepka claimed Patrick Reed had “built sandcastles” during the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December.
The winner of last year’s USPGA title told SiriusXM’s PGA Tour Radio: “Yeah. I don’t know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand.
“But you know where your club is. I took three months off and I can promise you I know if I touch sand.
“If you look at the video, obviously he grazes the sand twice and then he still chops down on it.”
“I said what I have to say about what happened in the Bahamas, and at the end of the day, all I’m trying to do is go out and play good golf and trying to win a golf championship and hopefully run [leader Rory McIlroy] down,” said Reed, who was also made fun of by his team-mates during practice at The Presidents Cup.
There was also an ugly scene where Reed’s caddie Kessler Karain intervened to deal with a heckling spectator during the third day’s play, and was removed from the competition after the confrontation, forcing Reed’s coach Kevin Kirk to go on the bag for the Sunday singles.
Even worse, Kostis, who has been a CBS on course regular for many years until this season, was even more scathing telling the No Laying Up podcast Kostis added, “I’ve seen Patrick Reed improve his lie, up close and personal, four times now.”
But whatever anyone’s take on the rights and wrongs of Reed’s behaviour on the course, it appears to be water off a duck’s back.
The spotlight over his integrity appears to have given him an even thicker hide with which to block out the pressures of trying to win one of the biggest titles in world golf.
What the Augusta crowds, let alone the Augusta National Golf Club will make of Reed in less than two months’ time is anyone’s guess.