ERIN, Wis. – Captain America made an appearance at Erin Hills on Saturday. Patrick Reed, who earned that nickname as the U.S. Ryder Cup hero at Hazeltine, didn't have a cape Saturday, but he wore his Team USA navy-blue pants for the first time in competition since the October matches. It's part of a patriotic red, white and blue ensemble that he has been wearing all week at the U.S. Open, at the suggestion of his wife.
"First time I've worn them in competition, yes,” Reed said. “I've worn them a lot around the house and stuff like that and practice. They felt good."
Whatever works. Reed was a fist-pumping fool all day as he took just 23 putts, 10 fewer than a day earlier, to vault up the leaderboard and within striking range at the 117th U.S. Open. Reed signed for a 7-under 65 in the third round, the second-lowest round of the day, and 8 under for the tournament. He stands tied for seventh, four strokes behind Brian Harman.
Patrick Reed plays the part of an American superhero in the U.S. Open.
Reed played like a man possessed at the Ryder Cup, going 3-1-1, including a memorable victory over Rory McIlroy in singles. But Reed, who has dropped to No. 19 in the Official World Golf Ranking, hasn't been able to build on his performance. He has spent the past few months trying to dial in his equipment, which had been giving him fits. His lone top 10 this season was in the limited-field SBS Tournament of Champions in January. Asked if it might be possible to convert Ryder Cup dominance into individual success in a major, Reed paused before saying, "Good question. I mean, it could have been an easier first question."
Reed's major-championship record is abysmal for a player of his stature. In 13 starts at golf’s four biggest events, Reed has yet to record a top-10 finish, and he conceded that he overemphasized majors. He practiced so much that he usually was tired by Saturday.
"I kind of got in my own way," he said. "I was living and dying by every golf shot, every putt and everything."
Reed opened with 68, but a Friday 75 sent him directly to the range for a full analysis with coach Kevin Kirk. When they parted ways, Kirk said, "Hey, there's a golf tournament to be won this week, so go out there and shoot a number and get yourself back in the golf tournament."
Reed's wife and mother-in-law suggested 4 or 5 under would be a good score. He did better than that. Reed said he actually struck the ball better on Friday, but his putter heated up Saturday. It didn't hurt that he had a bunch of uphill putts, and finally figured out the speed of the greens. He made three birdies in a row on each side of the course. The highlight? He holed a lob wedge from 49 yards at No. 8 for birdie.
"Put a lob wedge in his hands and it felt like he was going to make everything," said Kessler Karain, Reed's caddie and brother-in-law. "When he didn't make it, he burned edges." No one scrambled better on Saturday than Reed, who was 6-for-6.
Reed had an 8-foot birdie putt at 18 to get a stroke closer to the lead. Reed, who usually reads his own putts, called in Karain for a look. They both predicted it would turn right. The putt lipped out.
Still, only six golfers will begin the final round ahead of Reed. He'll likely have to go low again today, but that shouldn't be a problem, as long as the superstitious Reed is rocking his red, white and blue wardrobe. Asked if he would wash his Ryder Cup pants and wear them again, Reed said, "I've got four pair with me, so you'll probably see one of them again."
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @adamschupak