Reed grabs PGA lead with Noren, Rahm on his heels
Washington (AFP) – American Patrick Reed closed with back-to-back birdies to seize a one-stroke lead over Spain’s Jon Rahm and Sweden’s Alex Noren after Saturday’s third round of the PGA Wells Fargo Championship.
Reed, seeking his sixth career PGA Tour crown, sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th and tapped-in for birdie at the par-5 18th after just missing a 30-foot eagle putt to fire a five-under par 67.
That left 15th-ranked Reed on eight-under par 208 after 72 holes at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina — a one-year host for the event while its usual course, Quail Hollow in Charlotte, readies for the PGA Championship in August.
“(I’ve got to) just keep playing the way I’ve been playing, keep things rolling on the greens pretty good and make some putts,” said Reed, who has only one top-10 effort this year.
Rahm and Noren each fired 69s to stand on 209, one stroke in front of Americans Brian Harman and Vaughn Taylor and South Korean Noh Seung-Yul, whose 67 matched the day’s low round with Reed and top-ranked Dustin Johnson.
Reigning US Open champion Johnson, playing his first event since withdrawing from the Masters with a lower back injury, was in a pack sharing 14th on 212 that also included five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.
“It has been very tough conditions the past two days,” Noren said. “If it’s the same tomorrow it’s going to be a very open field.”
The day began with 68 players finishing their second rounds after a three-hour delay Friday due to heavy overnight rains left matters unsettled when darkness fell.
First-day leader Francesco Molinari of Italy completed a second-round 72 to carry a one-stroke lead into the afternoon, but fired another 72 in less windy conditions that allowed 18 players to come within four shots of the lead.
“Benign around here is 15-18 mph,” Reed said. “It was the calmest of the three days out here and you can see it in the scores from a lot of the guys. It was almost easy out there.”
Reed birdied the par-5 fourth and par-4 eighth and kept his hot hand with a 12-foot birdie at the par-3 10th and an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-4 12th. His lone bogey came on a four-foot par putt miss at 14.
– Unfamiliar territory –
Noren, with eight wins in Europe, seeks his first on the US PGA Tour as he tries to keep playing rights in both.
“It feels different. I’m not used to playing over here,” Noren said. “I know the guys on the European Tour. Coming here is a little bit different. but it’s still golf.
“I’m trying to develop my game to do it but it’s difficult with a family and all the traveling.”
Noren holed long birdie putts to make his charge, a 38-footer at the fourth, a 24-footer at the par-4 seventh, a 28-footer at the 10th and a 12-footer at 14, but it was a four-foot par miss at 16 that kept him from sharing the lead with Reed.
Rahm grabbed his share of second by sinking a 23-foot birdie at the 18th.