No cheers on empty course, but Reed’s ace lifts him at Open

National Sports

Patrick Reed, of the United States, checks his lie on the 17th green during the first round of the US Open Golf Championship, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Making a hole-in-one on an empty golf course deprived Patrick Reed of the cheers that typically accompany any great shot.

It did, however, do a whole lot for his score.

Reed one-hopped a 9-iron into the cup on the 165-yard, par-3 seventh hole at Winged Foot in the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday. The ace helped him erase a double bogey on No. 5 and set him up to finish at 4 under for the day, just one stroke behind leader Justin Thomas heading into the afternoon.

“Of course I was excited about it, but really I knew from that point that, hey, you need to settle out, get ready for the next hole,” the 2018 Masters champion said. “Around here at Winged Foot, every golf shot you have to pay attention to because you hit one poor golf shot, a lot of things can happen out here.”

Bad things.

Like what happened on the fifth hole, when Reed wound up in the left rough off the tee and then knocked his second shot into a fairway bunker with another 75 yards to the hole. He left his sand shot 20 yards short of the green and then three-putted from 60 feet for a 6.

Reed, who had never played Winged Foot before, said it is the kind of course that can turn a good shot into a bad one with a tough bounce or an unlucky roll onto the wrong side of a ridge.

“How do you react to that, how do you handle it?” he said. “I’ve always been very good forgetting what happened in the past, forgetting what happened on that one shot — move on and focus on what’s coming up.”

And just that’s what he did.

On the very next hole, Reed punched it from the first cut at the front left of the green to within 7 feet, and then knocked that in for birdie.

On No. 7, Reed held his follow-through a bit while he strained to see the flight of his ball. He then tipped the bill of his cap before strutting over to bump fists with playing partner Hideki Matsuyama and their caddies.

Although there are no fans on the course for the pandemic-delayed tournament, a few volunteers let out a holler.

“It was unfortunate the fans weren’t here because that would have been an awesome experience,” Reed said. “It would have been nuts. Up here in New York, the fans are amazing. You go ahead and you hole out from the fairway, you make a hole-in-one, the fans will just go crazy.”

Will Zalarotis also had a hole-in-one on the seventh — the shortest hole on the par-70, 7,477-yard West Course in suburban New York.

It was Reed’s second ace as a pro, having rolled one in on the 16th hole at the Houston Open in 2015. That time, he milked the cheering crowd by racing his caddie to the green for the chance to pull the ball out of the cup.

“An ace is an ace. I’ll take it either way,” Reed said. “Once it went in, I was like, ‘All right, let’s move on, get ready for the next tee shot on 8.’ From that point on, my focus was more on the next hole.”

Reed ran off a string of three birdies in four holes on the back nine and was tied for the lead in the clubhouse before Thomas, in the group behind him, birdied No. 18 to finish at minus 5.

Reed said he was surprised to see the leader at 5 under; the lowest score in any of the five previous U.S. Opens at the club was a 66 by Fuzzy Zoeller in the second round in 1984.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about the golf course, heard it’s a bear,” Reed said. “I love hard golf courses. I think it separates the top golfers compared to the rest of the field. Also, I think it separates the guys that can use creativity and can handle adversity.”

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