It’s not a major championship, but you would have a tough time determining that from watching the golf being played this weekend at Bethpage Black in New York. The Barclays, which is the first event of the 2015-16 FedEx Cup Playoffs, has been hotly contested for all three rounds.
Patrick Reed shot an even-par 71 on Saturday but now trails Rickie Fowler by one stroke going into the final round after Fowler fired a bogey-free 68. It was Fowler’s second straight bogey-free round, and he has now gone 45 straight holes without making a bogey. His only bogey on the week came on Thursday.
“I mean, for the most part, just having the one on 9 [on Thursday], which was a serious lipout,” said Fowler, “basically looking at it as I hit a good putt there, and thought I made the putt. So it was like going 54 holes, no bogeys. Around this place, I’m happy about that. You’re going to have to pull off some magic here and there to save some pars like I’ve been able to, and then also you’re going to have to ball-strike your way around here.”
It seemed like every hole down the stretch in Round 3, Fowler was getting up and down from somewhere outrageous. And there are some completely outrageous spots to get stuck at Bethpage, where the scoring average has been over par in each of the first three rounds.
.@RickieFowler: 94.1% scrambling through 3 rounds, on pace for best scrambling performance in PGA Tour career
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 27, 2016
Fowler, who is 9 under to Reed’s 8 under, has converted nearly every up-and-down opportunity he’s had over the first 54 holes. He ended his round in style too on Saturday with a lights-out birdie at the final hole to turn up the heat on Reed and thrust them into the final pairing on Sunday — putting the spotlight on in more ways than one.
“It’s fun,” said Fowler who is No. 7 in the field in putting this week and sporting a playoff mustache. “Especially when you are making putts and it’s been bad, the past few months, just seeing myself hit good putts and not go in. To see it starting to come around, it’s definitely helped out the rest of the game. And when you aren’t making putts, it kind of tightens up the rest of the game. To have a few putts go in, to be able to be getting up-and-down for par and saving those shots to keep the momentum going, it makes all the difference.”
Reed and Fowler both came into this week teetering on the edge of automatic Ryder Cup spots (which will be decided after the final round at Bethpage on Sunday). Reed was No. 8 (barely in) and Fowler was No. 12 (barely out). Now, all of a sudden, those two are primed to surge into the top six and, along with Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, anchor a U.S. team that currently lacks an identity. A duel at Bethpage on Sunday could certainly breathe some life into the team that will contend against the Europeans in a month.
“I’m ready,” said Reed. “I’ve been ready, felt like all year. I need to put four rounds together. I really felt like I put two out of three rounds together this week so far, and still only one back. Go in and put some pressure on Rickie and hopefully both of us kind of separate ourselves on the back and play some good golf.”
Even Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is impressed with the play at Bethpage.
“We’ve been around each other for, what’s that, 12, 13 years or so now,” said Fowler of playing with Reed. “So it will be fun. I’m looking forward to it. He’s fun to watch and he’s going to be tough to beat tomorrow.”
Fowler and Reed are two of the more dynamic players and personalities on the PGA Tour. It all adds up for what should be a Sunday packed with pressure shots and tons of bravado. All in front of a New York crowd ready to back the most willing player.
“I feel great,” said Reed who shot 66-68 in the first two days. “If you were to tell me I was going to be one back going into Sunday [then] would I take it, I’d say sure. Eighteen-hole shootout, one shot is nothing, especially on a golf course like this. We go out there tomorrow and do what we do the first two days, we’ll be all right.
“I lived in Pittsburgh for quite some time when I was younger, so I knew how boisterous they can be out here. It’s good. It’s good for the game. You can really feed off of the good energy that they give. If you get on a hot streak, then all of a sudden they get louder and louder and it becomes very fun and interesting.”
A Sunday showdown between two players who have not won in a year and are itching to break out of old (and probably incorrect) stereotypes. Two players prepared to help lead a U.S. Ryder Cup team desperate to pop the tops of a couple dozen champagne bottles as major winners like Jason Day and Adam Scott try to chase them down from behind at a classic American course like Bethpage. Two players who have proven over and over again in their careers that they’re down to brawl down the back nine on a Sunday. Two players with much more to play for than the nearly $1.5 million first prize.
There are worse ways to start the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed ready to duel for The Barclays crown, Ryder Cup spot