Americans finally hustle into Fanling, and Patrick Reed is happy to lead the charge
The 25-year-old likes the Hong Kong galleries as he secures a top-10 finish
The cover of the yardage book in his hands is an American flag. There is little doubt; Patrick Reed is on the first tee box. When countryman Dustin Johnson missed the cut at the UBS Hong Kong Open, the 25-year-old Texan and world number 20 became the second highest ranked player in the field after number seven Justin Rose.
With all this talk of Johnson appearing for the first time in Hong Kong, Reed has been something of the forgotten American. But after a third round 65, he started the final day in fifth place at eight under par. Reed was perhaps the most passionate American player in last year’s Ryder Cup. Teamed with Jordan Spieth at Gleneagles, the pair were the sole shining light for a lacklustre US team. Reed went 3-0-1 and was not only the most patriotic American player, he was also happy to play the Uncle Sam foil for the European supporters to boo. Surely the American fans will be out in full throat to support him in Hong Kong.
Well, not quite. Teeing off four groups behind co-leaders Justin Rose and Lucas Bjerregaard, other than Reed’s yardage book there are no stars and stripes in sight. By the time he and playing partner, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, get away from the mobs hanging around the first tee box, their gallery shrinks significantly. There are a few Americans following but its muted applause, not chants of “Yew-S-A” ringing through the air.
“It’s good to see more American guys coming over now,” said Bryan Pruden, a native of Los Angeles who is following Reid and has lived in Hong Kong for three years. “We don’t get to see them that often in Asia, maybe in Shanghai. But it’s good to see them in Hong Kong playing a golf course that as the general public we also get to play a few times a year. I like Reed because he plays with passion. It’s good to see the fire. We don’t see that as much in players after Tiger has gone into his downward spiral. It’s nice to see someone show a little emotion.”
Said his friend, fellow American Michael Turner: “It’s nice to get Reed’s enthusiasm without the slapstick of John Daly, who has been representing us out here the past few years.”
The rest of the gallery is overwhelmingly local, with many enjoying the intimacy. “My wife and I found the gallery too big with Rose,” said Timothy Yang from Shenzhen who works in Hong Kong. “This is much better, we get to see a couple of world-class players up close and I like Patrick’s game.”
Reed’s shoots 67 to finish six strokes behind eventual champion Rose at 11 under par, good enough for a third place tie.
While Asian galleries may lack some of the golf knowledge of those in the UK or the US, they tend to be far less boisterous as well.
“It’s been great,” said Reed after his round. “It doesn’t matter if I was here, in the States or in Europe, if my caddie asks people to stop moving and they listen that is really all you can ask for. Over here they seem to be a lot more even keel. They cheer for good shots but they’re not yelling out 'get in the hole' or ‘mashed potatoes’ after your shots.”
Admittedly, his travel has been limited but as he has become more successful this rising PGA star is looking forward to broadening his parameters. “I was always curious before I went to the President’s Cup in South Korea a few weeks back and then here in Hong Kong whether there was some kind of language barrier that made for a different kind of golf culture,” he said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at how much they knew about golf and understand and respect the game.”
As this event seems to be rejuvenated going forward, Reed says he is happy to spread the good word back in the US. “I am going to go back and tell all my friends and other golfers if they have an opportunity to come here,” he said. “This place is awesome, with UBS and the way they run the event and of course Hong Kong Golf Club and the way people treat you. It was really a fun experience and hopefully I can come back again.”
By this time next year the 2016 Ryder Cup will be in the books and who knows what sort of profile Reed will have. But he received high marks for his debut performance and could well be counted on to be one of the American leaders as they look to improve on their woeful record against Europe over the past 15 years.
“Well, I have to make the team, that’s the first goal,” he said. “Once that is accomplished, I obviously hope to help in any way I can. But at the same time I don’t really have that much experience in those type of tournaments.
“I just know how to handle me. Still, I think we need to kick our guy’s butts in gear and say this is the one week you need to play some great golf because it just seems really lopsided lately.”
And, at the very least, his yardage book seems ready for the event as well.