Sunday’s final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral’s Blue Course told golf fans two things:
• The Blue Monster can’t be overpowered, can’t be reasoned with, it just must be fought. Wind (Thursday and Friday) or no wind (the weekend), it’s hard. Only three players were under par for the tournament, and Patrick Reed’s 4-under-par 284 total tied Mark McCumber’s 1985 number for the highest winning score at Doral.
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• You need to get to know Reed, a one-shot winner over Jamie Donaldson and 2012 Cadillac Championship runner-up Bubba Watson.
Sunday’s even-par 72, played mostly with a multi-shot cushion, closed out Reed’s third victory in his past 14 PGA Tour starts. Reed took the lead at Friday morning’s delayed first-round finish, was part of a quartet of leaders halfway through and took a two-shot advantage into Sunday over as good a field as you’ll find outside of a major.
“I have a lot of confidence in my game,” Reed said. “You build confidence by how hard you work, and I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers out here, and it definitely shows; I have three wins in 14 starts, especially in a field like this, to go wire-to-wire. It’s just one of those things that I feel like with how hard I’ve worked, I’m working my way up to becoming a top-five player in the world. It’s just going to take a little time in the fact I haven’t been on the PGA Tour for very long.”
Reed called Tiger Woods “the best player ever to live” among several reverential references to Woods in his post-tournament media session. But he didn’t bow down with the four-time Doral winner Woods just three shots back going into Sunday. He buried Woods along with everyone else with birdies on three of the first four holes while everyone else in the final two pairings struggled.
He and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High School graduate Jason Dufner both birdied No. 1 to go to 5-under and 3-under, respectively. A bogey on No. 2 cut Reed’s lead to one shot over Dufner.
Then came the par-4, 436-yard third hole. Reed knocked in a 23-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie. Dufner’s 34-foot, hop-and-roll from the primary rough left him five feet for par. Rarely will you see such a short putt that never had a chance. Then, Dufner put his tee shot on No. 4 into the water, the start of a double bogey. Reed drained a 19-foot putt.
“To hit a seven-iron, especially swinging as hard as I did, it’s very easy for me to hit that full, hard shot left, just overdraw,” Reed said. “With how the wind was going, it was a little right-to-left; I held that one really straight right at it and hit it to 15, 20 feet and made a perfect putt there. Just one of those things that got me going, allowed me to roll with it the rest of the day.”
Suddenly, with Woods and Hunter Mahan unsuccessfully fighting the course, Reed had a four-shot lead. He didn’t make another birdie. He didn’t need any more. Dustin Johnson got within three shots just before the turn, but even that allowed Reed to play conservatively on the back nine and make a number of wonderful up-and-downs.
While Reed is only 23 and wife Justine, his caddie in 2012 and 2013, is expecting their first child in May, Donaldson is at the other end of his career and life. Married with two kids whose photos decorate the back of his iPhone, the 38-year-old said he’s playing the best golf of his career and he has always been “a late developer.”
Like Reed, Donaldson felt he played well all week. They might have met in a playoff but for Donaldson’s bogey on the par-4, 471-yard 18th after cutting Reed’s lead to one shot with a birdie on No. 17.
“I didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on,” Donaldson said. “I was trying to focus on hitting really good shots, and that’s just what I kept doing. I hit a couple of bad shots [Sunday], which you’re going to. It’s just a pity that one of them was on 18 with the four-iron.”
Donaldson tried to draw the ball toward the flag and failed. Upon learning of the bogey that sent him to No. 18 with a two-shot cushion, Reed knew he didn’t have to come out guns blazing.
“First thing, just hit three-iron to the right because I know if I hit three-iron right, that’s not going to get into the trees,” Reed said. “So I was playing for that right rough and laid up with seven-iron, had 80 yards, hit a little wedge to the middle of the green and an easy two-putt.”
Oh, Reed went to college at Augusta State. Yes, that Augusta.