SAITAMA, Japan – Wednesday around 18:00 Patrick Reed drove around in a wagon on a golf course he had never seen before, trying to take notes before dark so he could play for an Olympic medal the next morning.
This whole Tokyo Games is unique and awkward, but Reed has a special case. He did not learn that he would only be here last Saturday night Bryson DeChambeau‘s positive COVID-19 test knocked him out of the field.
Reed only boarded a commercial flight to Tokyo on Tuesday morning and only arrived local time on Wednesday afternoon. Forget about a practice round – he couldn’t even hit a shot on the practice track.
But there was Reed on Thursday afternoon polishing a 3-year-old 68 in his first walk around Kasumigaseki Country Club. He fastened Xander Schauffele for low American, five strokes back from the leader of the first round, Sepp Straka of Austria, and in the early battle for a medal.
The strange situation forced Reed to rely on something he was not used to: teamwork.
Reed is known for playing with tunnel vision and keeping to himself, whether it be on the track, track or clubhouse. He said he enjoys getting off the track with peers, but he is a well-known loner.
But earlier in the morning, he came to his Team USA teammates and asked for knowledge about the course they had been training on for the past week. This format is odd – it’s a standard, individual fighting game event without team aspect. But compatriots usually practice together, stay together and eat together as if it were a Ryder Cup.
So the fellow Americans opened their notebooks for their teammate.
“It’s something you do not normally do,” said Team USA Collin Morikawa about sharing strategies before the event. “Patrick is a contestant, but we are in the same team. He asked some very simple questions.”
Reed mostly wanted to know how the greens accepted approach shots. The track is in a pristine condition and has been closed to members for two months to make it perfect for the 60 players on the field. The track has very deep boat bunkers and numerous greens.
No experience has cost Reed a few times. On the 15th hole, a sand wedge approach turned more than he expected, and his ball landed 60 yards from the pin. On the short 17th, he just turned in a lob wedge, and he judged that the green went from back to front diagonally, while the back of the green actually fell away from the player. When his ball zips near the pin, it does not grab the hill. Instead, it went deep and led to a commotion.
“There are just so many other players you can help,” Reed said. “[Justin Thomas] hit it past me. Xander turns his irons more than I do. Colin hits slices and I draw. ‘
Reed slept less than an hour Monday night while working to get paperwork, testing and packaging done for the trip. He flew from his home in Houston to San Francisco before going overseas. He slept a full night, but when a rain delay hit Thursday afternoon, he began to feel it in the air-conditioned clubhouse when the jet lag crept in.
So he went to the series, even though rain was still falling to stay awake. When the game resumed, he hammered a ride of the 14th tee off par 5 and made a birdie. His finish was remarkable when he considered everything, better than he thought it would be.
“Adrenaline got me started early, which enabled me to keep going like that,” Reed said. “The body really hung there much better than I could have expected.”