GREENSBORO, N.C. – This time last year, Patrick Reed was back home in Texas watching Tiger Woods contend and Davis Love III win the Wyndham Championship on TV.
He had decided to skip the tournament that he won in 2013 to be fresh for the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs. Still, even though his reasoning was sound, Reed was torn.
“(It) was just killing me,” he recalled Wednesday.
So this year, despite a lead-up schedule that included The Olympics, making a return trip to Sedgefield was a no-brainer.
“I was like ‘It doesn’t matter,’” Reed recalled. “I’m coming and playing because this is like home to me, going and getting your first win with my wife on the bag.
“Awesome to be back.”
Reed, who starts the Wyndham Championship ranked eighth in the FedExCup, is joined this week by one of his Olympic teammates, Rickie Fowler, who clocks in at 30th and is playing at Sedgefield for the first time. They are among 11 players ranked in the top 30 entered in the regular season finale, along with 2007 Wyndham winner Brandt Snedeker, who is the highest ranked at sixth, and Jimmy Walker, playing for the first time since his PGA Championship victory.
The top five players in the standings entering the Tour Championship control their own destiny in the race for the $10 million, and only the top 30 advance to East Lake.
At the other end of the spectrum, the field also features all but four of the players ranked from No. 120-150 in the FedExCup. The top 125 come Sunday not only advance into the Playoffs but they also retain playing privileges for the 2016-17 season.
So there’s clearly a lot at stake this week. That’s why Reed and Fowler don’t expect to have any trouble transitioning from the Olympics high to their day jobs on the PGA Tour.
But the memories of Rio de Janeiro are still vivid even though their scores left something to be desired – Reed shot 6 under and tied for 11th while Fowler tied for 37th at even par thanks in large part to a third-round 64.
Fowler’s favorite memory of the week came during a visit with Bubba Watson to meet and take selfies with some of the U.S. swimmers. As they left and walked out by the warm-up pool, they heard the cowbell ring and chants of USA, USA filled the room.
“I didn’t really think anything of it at first,” Fowler said. “Look back, they’re all starting to chant ‘USA.’ I started pumping my fist and chanting ‘USA’ back. … The whole pool, hundreds of people are looking straight over at us.
“I probably could have went out and swam the 100 meters.”
Reed, who has two runner-up finishes this year, said the entire experience in Brazil exceeded his expectations. He said seeing the Olympic rings everywhere when he arrived made him realize he was really and truly an Olympian.
“That was just amazing,” he said.
Reed’s other favorite memory was watching Michael Phelps win his 20th gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly. His wife Justine and her brother Kessler, who caddies for Reed, both swam as children but this was his first swim meet.
“It’s so crazy to see how excited people get over literally a 10-second race,” Reed said, grinning. “It’s ready, go, they’re in the water and out of the water. It was so cool to watch.
”The U.S. golfers left Brazil on Monday after making an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show.” Reed said he got to Greensboro about midnight and was at Sedgefield at 10 a.m. Tuesday to hit the range and play nine.
“From 2 to about 4:30, we’re playing nine holes and it was the hottest I’ve ever seen it,” Reed said. “… Halfway through that nine holes, I was just like ‘Kessler, what do we have? Kessler, get to yardage. Kessler, do you want to carry me now?
“It was tough. But it was good. I needed to get some work in. I haven’t quite been completely happy with my play recently.”
Fowler, who lost in a playoff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, is in a similar situation with his game. Not to mention, both he and Reed are also hoping catch fire this week and improve their Ryder Cup position.
Normally, the eight automatic qualifiers are finalized after the PGA Championship. This year the date has been extended until after The Barclays so there are valuable points on offer in Greensboro this week.
Reed ranks eighth in the standing for Davis Love III’s team while Fowler is 13th. Love, who won the Wyndham Championship last year at the age of 51 had surgery on his hip recently and can’t defend but he will be on site this week.
“We have a big stretch right now with four in a row, and after this week, a lot of Cup points, lot of movement that will happen in the first few weeks,” Fowler said.
“The game has been very close to being very good. Got a glimpse of it the third round in Rio. So just a fine line and looking forward to kind of flipping and being back to where I want it to be.”